27 March 2004

Finer than frog's hair

I've been wanting to set the record straight on something for quite some time now.

Back at college, my much-beloved Mount Holyoke College, to be precise, there were lots and lots of squirrels. These squirrels were less than impressed or intimidated by the flocks of students swarming around their habitat, and were both bold and inventive in methods of panhandling. More than once, I saw one run partway up the leg of a stationary student, obviously making the case for a share of her bagel.

One day, around the dinner table (the Gravity Pit) in my dorm (North Mandelle), the topic turned to our squirrelly friends. I spoke up and put forward my theory that there was, in fact, only one squirrel on campus. His name was Bob, and he did the rest with mirrors. And trapdoors. And a complex system of tunnels.

Imagine my surprise when, upon visiting the ol' MHC website a couple of years ago, I found a student quoted as saying, "all the squirrels on campus are named Bob." She then attributed this to some more recent student, or recent professor, or some fol-de-rol.


Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE my school, and I ADORE the fact that I was responsible for the creation of an mini-campus legend. But, um, can I get a witness?

In the last couple of years, since I saw this bit on the website (it's still there, by the way), I've tried to corroborate my story. Whenever I've come across an erstwhile member of the Gravity Pit Gang, I've asked if they remember this happening (my making the Bob quip). They do. In fact, my friend the editor of the school yearbook that year even reminded me that she attributed the saying to me in a caption on the last page of the '93 yearbook, under a picture of Bob.


Now you're saying "you petty, awful, egomaniacal squirrel-hater. Why can't you just leave it alone, and hug the knowledge to yourself that you were responsible for this slightly charming, but quite minor incident!?"

Well, 'cause. I don't really mind if the story goes that "no-one knows how he got that name," but for layers of lies ond rumour to be laid on what is quite likely my most lasting contribution to my school is unacceptable.

I just don't know how to set the record straight without coming off as petty and mean. And how many people will just roll their eyes and say, yeah, sure, YOU started it all. ok, ok... snicker.

MHC has a long tradition of perpetuating the eccentric last wishes of its alums: witness the gift to the school that ensures every student receives milk and cookies every night after dinner. This is, of course, my plan of last resort. Leave a small bequest, ensuring the well-being of Bob at Mount Holyoke College. Maybe the establishment of little squirrel refuges dotted all over campus. Or a day when everyone skips class to feed and cavort with Bob. Or a little, life-size statue of Bob, placed somewhere out of the way, with a simple plaque ("To Bob"), to mystify future matriculants.

I must call my attorney...

25 March 2004

o frabjous day!

Well, I got an honest-to-god (freelance) job lead today. One that I am, let's say, 88% certain will result in real, paid work. I've been so happy about this prospect all day that I'm actually kind of tired. It's exhausting to receive unexpected good news, and then stroll around all day, tossing it from hand to hand and hoping the other kids are looking when you catch it behind your back.

Or maybe I just need more practice.

Send me more good news, so I can bounce it off the side of a barn! And practice throwing it through a tire! And secretly study it under the blankets at night with a flashlight and a transister radio!

And it didn't hurt one bit that today was the first day that I really felt the sun on my neck, and heard more than one or two birds, and believed that spring was coming sooner rather than later. Of course, the good news on the job front certainly makes the idea of spring much more palatable.

Number one thing that I will NOT miss, if I avoid a summertime of labour in a restaurant kitchen:

the chafing.

Number two: Not seeing almost every goddamn gorgeous sunset over the freaking ocean.

I'm currently enjoying a nice streak of catching both the sunset and sunrise every day for about a week running. My house has a nifty view of the lake across the street, and the sunrise is directly in my line of view as I look out the front window. For the sunset, I can usually manage to hie myself to a beach, or an overlook, or some such thing.

Unfortunately, my lakey view will dwindle as spring and summer arrive. Right now, we can see through the trees because they're all bare -- so we can see most of the lake, and the opposite shore, only partly obscured by skinny tree trunks and nattering squirrels. When the leaves come in, the water-view gets crowded out, and then finally dwindles to just two little pockets of lakeyness.

Wow, I just keep coming up with more reasons to avoid this whole summer thing, don't I?

Other great things about (please god please god please) possibly working from home during the summer:

1. not battling through high-season traffic.

2. being able to choose to stay in air-conditioning all day if I want to, instead of standing over a grill or poking my head into a blazing hot oven.

3. have I mentioned my aversion to shorts yet in this post? well, consider it referenced.

evil, false, trixy shorts. we hates them.

My brain is numb -- I'm off to wallow in some trashy murder mystery with little or no literary value. huzzah!

23 March 2004


Today I sent out the final payment for what we've been calling our "marriage debt." (I know, in certain overwrought historical romances, "marriage debt" means something quite different. That's why it's funny.) We still owed some money to the place we rented out for the weekend, and so we paid it.

Does it feel good? Why yes. Yes it does. Especially considering that we only got married in October of last year, we got off pretty well as far as debt goes. Not too shabby. Thanks are due entirely to our parents for that, of course. And of course we had a terrific wedding -- in this big old house, overlooking the ocean, at sunset. There was a great big rainbow that was reflected in the water, so we had this huge crazy rainbow mobius strip effect, although it didn't come out in any of the pictures. And then two swans came swimming by the little cove we overlooked. And the sunset was the most amazing blazing red and orange thing you've ever seen. It rained and rained the day before and the day after the wedding, but it was beautiful, crisp and clear on the day itself.

It was really great.

Then we had an outstanding honeymoon in Vermont and Montreal. The World Series was underway, and we're kind of crazy Yankees fans. The Yankees won the game that we watched in public (gloat gloat), and we were safely locked up in our hotel room in Montreal when they lost it all (sulk). We got over it. Then we went out to our favorite pub down the street, where they were watching... hockey. I ask you. Hockey was the only thing to be seen on any tv screen we came across on Catherine Street that night, the last night of the World Series. It was like... we were in another country, or something!

Today I cleaned the bathroom -- you know, really went to town on it. Yanked out the shower curtain, liner, and suction-cup-mat, bleached the hell out of everything, rubber gloves up to my elbows, scrubscrubscrubscrubscrub. It was awesome. If you plan on visiting my bathroom any time soon, make sure you've got your sunglasses on. Don't look directly at any porcelain object, or you may experience severe retinal burns. It's just that clean.

When I do this sort of day-long, evil-chemical-intensive, somewhat-mentally-ill attack on dirt and mildew, I always cap it off by replacing the menagerie of soap chips in the soap dish with a brand-new, unsullied, fresh bar of soap. Don't ask. Ritual is crazily important to me.

I reached into the cabinet under the sink for a family-sized, 99 and 44/100% pure (!) bar of ivory soap; rearranged the jumbled assortment of razors, nail polish remover bottles, and Q-Tips; even re-wound that damn cord around the blow drier that neither of us ever use.

Nothing. We were out of soap.

Naturally, this sent me into a brief but controlled tizzy. The job simply wouldn't be DONE until I had placed the Bar of Soap into the Recently-Cleaned Soap Dish. I went into the bedroom to get my coat, since I was apparently going to the store.

But soft! Under my nightstand, tucked behind my secret stash of trashy fantasy novels, lay a white plastic bag. I pulled it out and opened it up. It was full of purloined toiletries from all the hotels we stayed in on our honeymoon!

Savon desodorisant boudine a la francaise. Ginger-lemongrass moisturizing lotion. Aloe-chamomile bath salts. Citron body wash, claiming to benefit the rain forest in some unnamed fashion. And for the Recently-Cleaned Soap Dish, a pristine bar of emollient bath soap with "Marriot" rendered in lovely cursive letters on the top.

Go on, feel free to use my bathroom. I have nothing to hide.

But watch out, because it's soft, and smooth, and smells like sweet sweet honeymoon lovin' in there.

And for God's sake, don't forget your sunglasses.

21 March 2004

...and also, I hate shorts.

Despite our recently acquired, and rapidly melting, five inches of snow, I can sense the approach of Spring. It's somewhat attributable, of course, to the yammerheads on radio and TV, who wasted a fair bit of time over the weekend telling us about the "first day of Spring", which allegedly occurred yesterday. But I never really feel it's Spring until it's time to turn our clocks ahead. I'm sure I'm not alone.

My particular dilemma with our encroaching Spring-iness is the fact that I really have to do something about getting a job. True, my unemployment benefits would carry me through to the end of June if I wanted them to, but honestly. I think a three month vacation is pushing it as it is. So, starting tomorrow, I'm going to get down and dirty about strong-arming somebody into paying me to correct their English. Or just their typing. Either one, really.

Since nobody is answering the phones today at any of your finer Houses of Publishing, I frittered away most of my day hunting for a cheap hotel room for us (sir husband and me) to crash in after the Bowie concert next week in Boston. Of course we could drive home after the show -- we only live about an hour and a half away -- but I've got a hundred dollars that says I get to stumble out of the Fleet Center (blissed out and ears ringing), maybe take the T a couple of stops, then stumble through some posh, chandeliered lobby, up an elevator (many many flights I hope -- I love sweeping city views), and into a nifty, self-cleaning hotel room with chocolates on the bed. Yay. As I've barely ventured further than the grocery store and post office since getting laid off in December, I am eagerly eagerly anticipating this adventure.

Also, I've never been to an "arena" rock concert before. I've been to countless outdoor festivals, and -- oh yeah -- I even OWNED a goddamn live-music nightclub for two years, but I've never been to your classic-style, fancy light-show, thousands of people screaming, superstar Rock God kind of show. The closest thing was that huge Phish show I went to way back when (1996?) in Plattsburg. There were something like 100,000 people there, but I'm not counting it because it was outside, it went on for three days, and it involved sleeping in a tent. The Bowie show, I sincerely hope, will be a somewhat more urban outing.
In the meantime, dear hypothetical reader, I do intend to figure out how to do more interesting things on this crazy blog of mine, like use hyperlinks, post pictures, etc. (I know. I'm old and slow. Any day now they're going to cull me out of the pack.)

You would not believe how geekily excited I was last night when I figured out how to manipulate my first line of code in order to post a couple of links in the margin. I did a little HTML dance of joy.

cha cha cha!

20 March 2004

The elements of style, baby

Evidence that I can learn new information, and thus get over a previously persistent pet peeve:

In brushing up on my copyediting skills, I've reread Strunk and White (and yes, laughed out loud several times. Really -- it's a very entertaining read! Check it out!) and in so doing, discovered that gerunds really DO take a possessive pronoun. (e.g., I was really irritated by her finishing the tequila...) For some reason, this construction has always struck me as lowborn and foul.

OK, so I still think it's a lousy way to speak/write, and To Be Avoided (S&W also asserts that sarcastic capitalization is outdated and stupid, but so what). But I will no longer look down my WASPish nose at those who choose to use said construction. Because that would make me snobbish, and wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What typeface is my parachute?

OK, let's give props where props are due: although I have long admired a few extremely worthy diarists (tequila mockingbird, geese aplenty, felber, and various friends of mine from grad school), the one that actually got me to put fingertips to keyboard was mimi smartypants.

Someone had directed me to her site a few months ago, but I guess it just didn't take. This time, though, I've barely been able to wrench myself away from the computer until I've finished reading all of her archived entries. (This is where it pays off to be unemployed and largely idle...)

Speaking of being unemployed, I have to say that I have very strong doubts about re-entering the working world again after so many months of enjoying the company of my cats, and eschewing the company of my alarm clock. And although I have greatly enjoyed my decade-long career as a cook in various restaurants, I don't exactly relish the prospect of spending another hot, sweaty summer in the trenches with surly people I barely know, who intentionally keep me at a distance because they want *me* to be the one who gets laid off in the fall, not them...

I used to advise people who had moved to a new city to get a part-time job at a restaurant as an instant, relatively painless way to acquire a shiny new circle of friends. Now that I've relocated to this beautiful seashore town, though, I can see the vast, gaping holes in my theory. Oh, sure, it worked just fine in the frozen north of New York State, where there is no seasonal economy to speak of. But here? It seems the only people who work year-round are teachers, hospital workers and lawyers. In all the restaurants I've worked at over the last two years (yes, that's right, I've shuttled between about 6 or 7 in that time, just to make ends meet), the other cooks have been downright hostile to me, apparently fearing that my presence threatens their stake in the the zero-sum product of year-round work. and maybe they're right.

But I'm sick of it. I'm sick of coming into a new place, trying to learn the subtle politics of the staff, at the same time as trying to assimilate a new, quirky, extensive menu. Sick of repeatedly trying to prove myself to a fresh group of surly, jealous cooks (jealous of their work status, not of my skills, I'm not that arrogant. I do fine as a cook, but I'm no Julia Child.) I'm *really* sick of sweating my *ass* off in some sweltering kitchen while happy, air-conditioned tourists are only a few feet away, demanding their baked, stuffed lobsters (a culinary abomination, if you ask me).

So. The upshot of this extended rant (which is really highly unlike me, honest -- I'm generally a far more upbeat person) is that I am trying my damnedest to find another way of paying the bills. I am hopeful that this will involve freelance work of some nature, preferably involving words. I did a fair bit of proofreading and copyediting when I was in grad school for a college friend of mine who was a junior editor at a Major New York Publishing House, so I'm very earnestly brushing up on those skills, hoping to land a gig doing that.

Please God Please God Please.

Don't make me go back in the kitchen this year. Honest. I'm too old for that nonsense now.

and we're off

Although part of me is convinced that once I start an online diary, such a thing will suddenly cease to exist, will become so immeasurably passe and unhip that it is outlawed -- despite this firm belief, I am, indeed, starting one. Mostly, I'm beginning to feel guilty for posting long, story-telling comments in the comment boxes of real bloggers. Any day now I expect to get a nasty email from one of them, telling me to get my own weblog, already, and stop using their precious webspace. Fair enough.

I've been unemployed this last little while (three months), waiting for the teeming hordes of tourists to return to our lovely little peninsula and fill all of our pockets with sweet sweet summertime money. Not surprisingly, this enforced inactivity has led me right down the road of Excessive Alcohol Consumption, Widening Ass, and Compulsive Blog Reading. It's no scenic route, let me tell you. So I guess I feel like I should give back a little. If that's what you can call it.

In any case, it seems like a good way to pass the time, improve my typing skills, and have something to do other than lurk around other people's sites, impatiently stamping my feet and waiting for them to post something, anything, dammit.