30 October 2004


I have a really beautiful and rather extensive personal collection of rocks and minerals on the mantel over the fireplace, and I very rarely ever look at it, except when I'm dusting, which happens approximately never. I have tiny samples of about 75 minerals, most of the basic rock types (granite, schist, basalt, limestone, etc.) and some pretty nifty fossils, too. I also have a top-notch pair of hiking boots that are now several years old, but I hardly ever scale mountains or hills in them, either.

Ever wonder how I got the name Rock Grrrl?

I was once a geologist. A geologist-in-training. I went to grad school for paleontology, and man, did I live for that shit. Plotting out field trips, hunting down fossils, collecting topo maps of the Canadian Rockies and the Alps, being the geeky TA in Rocks for Jocks who really got her rocks off by making stupid geology puns (orogeny leads to subduction which leads to relief! Ha! Get it?!)

That was me. And a friend of mine that I knew from the coffee shop I spent too much of my time in named me rock grrrl. And then my funding dried up, I got fed up with the politics of academia and depressed by the spectre of slaving for tenure for the next ten to fifteen years, if I was lucky enough to get a tenure-track job, and also my funding dried up. So I left the department, pretty much without a fight, and kind of in the middle of the night, without a word to anyone.

I had a vague notion to train to work in a science museum, or teach high school earth science, but never did either. Restaurant work was too easy and lucrative, and high school teachers rarely get a free beer after work. At least, not that I'm aware of.

I've always had a hard time letting possible futures go, and I've been quietly grieving this one for about ten years. I've flirted with the idea of going back and finishing my degree, but anyone who has been around academia long enough to know anything knows that they don't really let you back into their enchanted circle once you leave. And anyway, my misgivings about the job still remain. But man, was I one hell of a geology teacher. (Ask Donovan McNabb. I taught him Rocks for Jocks, and look at what a jock he turned out to be! Damn, I was good.)

And something about the pain of having failed in that career path, in having abandoned it midstream, caused me to shy away from anything having to do with it. My topos are all packed away in my mother's house, my boots collect dust, I have no idea what happened to my compass and hand lens. I don't even like to watch paleontology shows on cable. It's like I'm not really allowed to enjoy those things any more. But I did keep my rock collection, for some unknown reason.

Recently, I've had a spate of dreams at night about going back to grad school. I always wake up with the certainty that I honestly don't want to any more. It's like I'm flushing out the last of those fantasies. And, kind of without noticing, I've started hiking again, seeking out hidden paths and rocky terrain to explore for myself. I didn't think about this at all until just now, when I was reading in the living room and happened to look up and see this beautiful piece of lepidolite, bigger than my fist, that I've always loved, and my immediate reaction was a rush of affection for this rock. Not regret. Not shame.

Maybe I've crossed over.

28 October 2004

Scary stuff

What about that lunar eclipse last night, huh? If you were in a part of the world that didn't see it, or had to go to bed early, the moon literally turned red. Which explains other, seemingly inexplicable events of last night around these parts.

In other bizarro-world news, I apparently stumbled into a scary movie this afternoon, but i guess it just wasn't my time, or the monster was sleeping, or something. Seriously.

I was out for my usual walk by the river, and I noticed a trail I had never seen before leading off the paved road and into the woods. The trees are about halfway through shedding their leaves at this point, so there was a solid canopy of orange and yellow leaves around and overhead, and a lovely carpet of them underfoot. I set off down the path optimistically, cheerfully muttering "Whose woods these are I think I know" to myself, because I'm a dork from a liberal arts college in New England.

Then, honest to god, there was a fork in the path. Neither branch looked more or less travelled, so I figured it would make no difference, and turned left. Which, as we all know, is a synonym for "sinister." After a few yards, the path dipped sharply downhill, apparently winding around the edge of some depression, maybe a small bog or pond.

As I reached the lowest level of the pit, I was faintly repulsed to find that there had, indeed, once been a pond or bog here, but it had turned to black mud, which had eventually dried up and formed a dark, cracked surface, like mudflats in the desert. There was a stand of large, dead trees in the dead bog, all spiking out of the mudcake in different directions. The path ended here; there was no path on the other side of the ex-bog.

Now, I suppose I had been pretty dumb up until this point, and I could almost hear the audience in my head yelling "Turn BACK! Turn BACK!!!" But I figured I had already laid eyes on the unholy bog of doom, and my fate was already sealed. I also figured I had a good chance, since I'm well out of the 18 to 25 year-old age bracket, and was wearing more than just my bra. Also as long as I didn't start running through the woods in a panic, branches scraping my face and tears streaking my cheeks.

So I calmly turned back up the winding path. The fact that I casually picked up a large stick at around this time and held it firmly at one end is NO indication of my emotions at the time, nor of my pulse rate. The last bit of the path before it turned back onto the road ran behind some small houses, most of which had old, rusted out tools and mowers lying about in the back yards. I reached the road.

Almost immediately, a white pickup truck came up behind me with two young guys in the front seats. They cruised slowly past me, staring at me. This was followed by two more pickup trucks with young fellas in 'em. More staring.

You think I'm making this up.

I think I might have stumbled into somebody's patch of weed.


26 October 2004

Alstublieft, alstublieft

I'm sure I'm giving away too many secrets now, but I just found approximately 380 tons of crap under my bed during an unusual spate of semi-annual housecleaning. Although I generally keep the house reasonably tidy (at least the parts strangers see) I always, routinely, whether it needs it or not, do the whole "move the bed to the other side of the room and excavate" about every, oh, let's see... how long have I lived here now? Let's call it three years.

It is in fact an archaeological undertaking, since by this time there are discernible layers of sediment (mostly books, crap, cobwebs, the occasional pizza box, Molson bottle, cobwebs, books, and crap), and picks and shovels are pretty much totally required. Now, I can finally sit cross-legged on the floor, sorting through all the discarded bedtime reading I've enjoyed enough to toss over the far side of the bedframe. Books that I think I'll read again I throw on one pile. the others go on the bigger pile.

I have to be much crueler and more ruthless these days in thinning the herd of books. I live in a house about the size of a ziplock bag, so I have to be very disciplined about space. In light of this, I might hold a chilly, late Autumn yard sale, sell all my trashy novels, sexy underwear, and Prince posters for a dollar a piece, then pocket the cash for the trip to Amsterdam. Ya know, liquidate our assets and such. Hey, the way I see it, every dollar saved here is another bitteballen on the Prinsengracht. Whatever that means.

From what I can tell from the guide books, Amsterdam will provide lots of breakfast in the form of ham and cheese sandwiches, lunches in the form of soup and bread, and dinner in the form of whatever delicious Indian/Dutch/Whatnot traditional food I could ask for. All accompanied by terrific beer. I'm in.

23 October 2004


The big huge drama in life right now is that apparently the passport agency can't process the idea that a man would change his name upon marrying just like millions of women do every day.

They have no problem with the fact that I changed my name last year after I walked down the aisle, but the fact that Matt did too (we both took his mother's maiden name) is quite beyond their ken. Now, I know this isn't a common practice, but, really, it isn't so different from when a guy hyphenates his name upon getting married. Smith-Jones is a different name than Smith. We started out as Smith and Jones, and now we are both McGillicuddy (names have, in fact been changed).

So although I (the girl) just need to demurely present proof of my matrimonial status and get patted on the head and pinched on the ass as I walk away with my shiny new passport, he has to present his most recent electric bill, last year's dry cleaning ticket stubs, recite the starting line-up of the 1978 Yankees, and -- oh yeah -- cough up 200 bucks.

Stupid-ass discrimination, anyone?

19 October 2004


When I was in college, I earned a solid reputation for losing, misplacing, or simply repelling my possessions. In general, I have a cavalier attitude toward material objects. I usually like to imagine this is a laudable embrace of the Buddhist ideal of being unattached to the material plane, but most of my friends have just regarded it as a charming quirk of personality. There are those who think it's a character flaw, but I don't talk to those people anymore.

I'd be gesturing with my hands while making a point, and my watch would go flying off my wrist and across the room. Books, cigarettes, one left shoe... would mysteriously go missing on a daily basis. There were little cubby holes -- caches, if you will -- maintained by my friends all over campus that held clothing and personal effects I had carelessly shed and then left behind. I was once surprised to find my alarm clock behind the information desk at the student center. I still have no idea how that got there.

Now it seems that my skill for repelling items of value has regrouped, and isolated itself to my eyewear. Over the last two weeks, I have lost three pairs of contacts. This morning, I lost my glasses. It is very difficult to find one's glasses when one needs them to see in the first place. I finally found them, after much crawling around the house on all fours, peering myopically at the floorboards. They were wedged between my bed frame and the mattress. Yeah, right. I have no idea either.

All of this lost eyewear has gone missing while I sleep. Since I doubt (although I can't rule out) the idea that someone is sneaking into my house at night and stealing my contact lenses and hiding my glasses, I'm considering the theory that I'm doing it myself, in my sleep. I have a history of sleepwalking, although I haven't done it regularly for years. When I was a kid, so my father informs me, I was fond of walking slowly up and down the street, swinging a large stick and singing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song. He'd lead me gently back inside, and I'd ask him if he had any more split pea soup. Not kidding.

So it's possible I'm doing something equally nonsensical with my contacts. Or maybe I just treat them with such contempt (by not cleaning them ever, leaving them in my eyes for weeks at a time, etc.) that they have conspired against me and have developed a sort of underground railroad for eyewear unfortunate enough to be sold into servitude to me and my evil ways. Contacts slip away by night, singly and in pairs, following the light of the Drinking Gourd. The glasses occasionally make a run for it, but are too large and bulky and get caught before they can make good their escape.

Or maybe somebody really is breaking into my house just to fuck with me.

Jet lag

We returned from our trip to Syracuse today, and we're both pretty strung out from the endless succession of friends, family, and antagonistes that we encountered over the course of the weekend. Though the weekend was most enjoyable and involved lots of socializing with dazzling urbanites and downing many nifty cocktails, I am most pleased to be home with my cats.

In my last post, I implied that something great would emerge from this trip, and I was not wrong. Although I had begun to doubt if our planned trip to Amsterdam would actually materialize, I may now put my doubts to bed.

We're not just going to Amsterdam, we're going to Amsterdam and staying in a dope-ass (a.k.a. 5 star) hotel right in the middle of the city. Wowee wow wow wow. All courtesy of my sainted mother-in-law, who evidently likes us an awful hell of a lot, and ain't a-scared to show it.

We're booked for the first week of December, so anyone who has anything to say about that, including hints, links, and favorite bars, may contact me at their leisure.

14 October 2004


So we're off to the big city tomorry, uyuh. I've been telling everyone I'm going to New York, which is true, but I'm allowing them to believe I mean New York City, which is not true. We're going back to the ol' Salt City, Syracuse, hometown of my darling spousal unit.

Since I've been hermitaceously tucked away here on this remote and rather stuck-in-time sandbar for many months, I realized it was time to gussy my damn self up so I can walk with pride down Franklin Street in hip, trendy Armory Square. So I got my hair cut (sexy!) and my eyebrows waxed (sophisticated!), bought two new shades of lipstick (alluring!) and washed my favorite jeans (alarmingly necessary!).

Now I'm all jazzed up, and I spent most of the day calling up all my old buds in town, strong-arming them into going out with us on Friday night to see the best bar band in the history of bar bands. All were happy to give in and say uncle.

So then I went to try on my new lipstick (it fits!) and stretch out the waistband of my most fetching jeans (they shrink in the dryer!) and checked myself out in the mirror.


I have, like, the hugest zit on my face.

I have always had a pretty terrific complexion -- my adolescent years were plagued with the usual crippling self-awareness and awkwardness, but not with acne, thank the gods. So what have been the THREE (3!) days in my life when I've had a conspicuous pimple on my face (we're sticking with the face here)?

1. Senior prom.

2. Getting my passport picture taken.

3. Today.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. First, I fully realize that I am paying back in karma points what I had stored up by not being acne-riddled in high school. Fine. I'm down with that. More importantly, though, both of the first two events presaged something pretty cool happening in my life. So I'm going to take this as an indication of good fortune, as a good omen. Something really great is going to happen as a result of this trip, it just remains to be seen what and just how great it will be.

Unsightly skin blemishes, my personal Halley's comet.

11 October 2004

Haunted town

It's starting to be all dark and spooky weather all the time around here, especially with the strong winds we've been having lately because of yet another fake-out-teaser of a hurricane/storm that is only coquettishly brushing our cheeks with the back of her hands. But at least the leaves are mostly still on the tress, because once they get over with that whole Gorgeously-Striking Colors and the Glory of Nature's Bounty in Autumn thing that they do, then they will just be bleak and skeletal. But hey, then I'll be able to see the river again.

In fact, I should really be taking a walk right now, and enjoying some of the aforementioned Nature's Beauty, but instead I am vaguely floating around the house, procrastinating from doing real work by inventing chores, like reconditioning a bunch of cast iron skillets my mom gave me last year. I've been waiting for it to get cool enough so that I wouldn't mind having the oven on for hours at a pop, and now it is. And I should really do the thing I'm paid for first, but reconditioning cast iron skillets sounds so crafty and money-saving and thrifty in a yard sale kind of way that I feel like it's sort of like making money. At least it's not spending money, except for all the gas I'm using in the oven, and the oil, and well forget it.

Procrastinating is one thing. Weakly attempting to justify it is another thing entirely.

The job will get done, though, because Matt and I are heading out to Syracuse this weekend for a family thing. Syracuse is really the home of spooky weather, and also has a fair bit of spooky architecture going for it, too. A perennial favorite is the Hall of Languages, which is kind of the emblematic gateway building of Syracuse University. Folks have told me that the Hall of Languages was partly the inspiration for the Addams' Family house, which I think is unfortunately untrue, but you can see why people might say that.

My personal favorite was always the NiMo (Niagara Mohawk) building, in all its art deco glory. I always expected to see Batman scaling this building in the middle of the night. Since the NiMo building is right in the middle of downtown, nestled among some of our favorite bars and clubs, I probably thought I did see Batman up there a couple of times.

More gothic creepiness is right down the street from the NiMo building, including the Syracuse Savings Bank, the White building, and most of Salina Street. Of course, the fact that the area is severely economically depressed lends just the right touch of authentic malaise to the whole place.

I hope I'm not giving the wrong impression -- I really dig Syracuse, the architecture, the history, the people. Maybe this trip I'll actually take pictures so I can share the spooky building love. Those readers whom I know from our sojourns in Syracuse may put in their requests now.

Sorry, no food orders.

08 October 2004

Turn around, bright eyes

I can always tell when it's time to take out my contacts for a day, put on my glasses, and give my parched eyeballs a break. It's when I have any dream that centers on me trying to find my favorite bottle of Sensitive Eyes eyedrops, and then I wake up and have to force my eyes open with hot, sterilized tongs.

Now, I have to make it clear that my contacts are not the fancy Night and Day brand, or even particularly extended-wear lenses. I've tried those brands, and they just don't hurt enough for me to know they're usefully inserted on my eyes. So I generally wear weekly disposables. For at least six months.

I don't know why I'm so pathologically cavalier towards my eyes and, by extension, my ability to see. I've worn glasses since sixth grade, and it took me exactly one year to convince my mother I was responsible enough for contact lenses. That was the same year I got her to let me get my ears pierced. Her defenses must have been pretty weak that year. I should have tried for more.

So I've worn contact lenses for almost 20 years (whoa) and during that span I have committed some pretty heinous crimes against my eyes. I started the downward slide the summer before the eighth grade, when I saw my summer camp counselor taking her contacts out and putting them straight into the case... without cleaning them first.

This was a revelation to me. I had been conscientiously cleaning my lenses every night, and back then I even used that creepy little heating unit every week that you had to plug into a wall outlet, until they started me on those creepy little dissolving capsules that fizzed and bubbled around my lenses for their weekly decontamination. Now, when I saw my coolest of counselors shrug and turn out the light when I asked her what the hell she thought she was doing, I saw the envelope, and resolved to see how far I could push it.

Pretty far, is the short answer. I've put my contacts in tap water, often in the fold of a cassette tape case (open one up all the way and prop it up like an lectern. It forms a trough, and there are sometimes two little nubs of plastic that will keep the lenses separated.) And I have wrapped them up in dampened paper towels. The rough, brown, industrial type of paper towels. I've also used film canisters filled halfway up with tap water.

That was in high school, when I was young and reckless (yes, that is just about as wild and crazy as I got in high school). Now I just leave them in all day and night for weeks and weeks until my eyes bleed. Or until I have The Dream.

So I had The Dream last night, and dutifully pried my contacts out upon awakening. I put on my cute little wire-framed glasses and sat down at the computer, which I don't remember being so painfully bright before. Naturally, I had an e-mail waiting for me with a new editing job with lots of little subscripts and fine print and hieroglyphic charts and figures. Needs to be done with a 24-hour turn-around time.

Ow ow ow ow ow.

Praise the Lord and pass the eyedrops.

06 October 2004

Season of mists and mellow fruitiness

Today was a day for fall chores, as I've got a big project coming in tomorrow and they're forecasting frost on any given night this week. I think it's unlikely to frost this early here on the coast, but whatever, I'll use it as an incentive.

Alert readers will recall that I made my first foray into the world of gardening this year, so this winter is a big one for me: What will live? What will die? Matt and I have agreed that a 60% survival rate come spring will be considered a success. He's a bit of a greener thumb than I am, having worked as a landscaper while in his formative years, and then branching out into other, slightly less legal agricultural concerns during college. But that was long ago, so cool it, Ashcroft.

I mostly planted heathers of various varieties, and the nursery told me all I had to do was give them a nice layer of mulch before the frost, prune them come spring, and they'd be fine. I am, in this as in most things, sanguine. If they live, cool. If they don't I will find some front yard planty tenants who aren't such goddamn primadonnas. And yes, I hope they are listening right now.

What I'm really looking forward to is going back out to my patch of heather in the spring, assessing the casualty rate, and saying loudly "What's your damage, Heather???" ... because that's one of the best movies ever.

And because I love raising the collective eyebrows of my neighbors by conversing loudly and incoherently with myself in the front yard. Tends to keep away the petition signature seekers and girl scout cookie pushers. Masspirg still visits me every year, because they always come by after I've had a few glasses of wine and feeling groovy and I used to canvass for them one awful summer so I'm a really easy mark.

So after mulching my little heather babies I put up the storm windows in the front and back doors and cleaned all the windows, inside and out. Naturally, our house is only one floor. I don't exactly get along with ladders. Then I put all the Paddy O'Furniture (thank you, Carol Wasserman) back in the shed, coiled up the garden hose and tucked it onto the porch, and prepped up the garlicky beef stew and roast potatoes we're having for dinner tonight sometime around the seventh inning of the Yankees/Twins playoff game.

Also, because this just happened in my town, I put fresh batteries in my smoke detectors, and strongly urge everyone else to do the same in their homes. Just do it.

Then have a couple of glasses of wine, hide your checkbook, and ignore the doorbell. The season of the hermit is here.

04 October 2004

Top ten

How is it that another month has already passed by and I'm no thinner, richer, or more virile? Oh, right, because I never order products from late night television infomercials. Alas, then all I have left to console me is my

Top Ten Cover Songs

As always, these are in no particular order, because ranking things makes me rankle. It's rank.

Yeah, I've had too much coffee. Shut it.

Cardigans -- Iron Man

My husband bought this cd when it came out and I spent a few months feeling insecure that what he really wanted in a girlfriend was a blond, blue-eyed gamine elf from a sexier country. Then I realized that this was a truism and not worth seething over. I like this song, and I like this version. And I blacked out her eyes and gave her a mustache and beard on the cd jacket.

Was (Not Was) -- Papa Was a Rolling Stone

When I was in grad school and just discovering the wonders of old funk and soul, I came across this cover and kept it playing in my car for weeks. Then I got all excited about all the cool new music I was listening to, and made a mix tape for my Dad, but ended up not sending it because it had this and another dad-bashing song on it. I'm such a wimp, but I didn't want him to think I was sending him thinly-veiled insults.

Cake -- I Will Survive

I don't know what this says about me, but whenever the original comes on the radio, I spend the next few minutes wishing it was the Cake version. You just can't beat a french horn solo.

Booker T and the MGs -- Mrs. Robinson

This is a very smoking version, emphasis on the smoking hot organ. Whoa. Was that out loud?

Tricky -- Black Steel

Not only is this a great version of a great song, but it also comes in handy when I go to the post office and get my tax return. "Got a letter from the government the other day... " Suckers. (I know, I'm the sucker for giving the gov't an interest-free loan every year and then feeling gratitude when they let me have some of it back. Eh, bien.)

Quincy Jones -- Superstition

Another song that you just can't go wrong with, arranged and performed by a master. Sometimes all you need is to hear this bassline, and you know everything is going to be OK. At least for the next five minutes.

The JBs -- Use Me

Although the Bill Withers original is one of my all-time favorite, desert-island songs, and I often nearly cause a car crash every time I listen to it because I love clapping those sycopated claps two-thirds of the way through ("oh baby! *clap* Baby! *clap* Baby! baby!*clap* When ya love me I can't get enough!") and technically I should be using those hands to drive with... this song is a sufficient substitute. It's all instrumental (this being the back up band for James Brown, a.k.a. the Horny Horns), except for some very excited female vocalists who jump in every now and sing "Use Me! Use me up now baby... Use me!"

The Roots and Bobby Womack -- Summertime

I defy you to listen to this track only once through. All last summer (2003), when I was still working in a hot sweaty kitchen with mean people, I made sure this song would play in my tape deck (I'm so analogue) almost every day on my way home, and the bilious hate would slowly melt away until I could reach home, change into sweatpants, and pour myself a glass of wine. This song is a goddamn public service.

Jack Black -- Let's Get It On

One of the great things about Tenacious D is that all their songs sound like covers, but aren't. This one (by Jack Black, not the D, of course), from the soundtrack of High Fidelity (like we all don't already know that -- we are a list-making gang of music freaks, after all, so I imagine it's safe to say that High Fidelity is a shared experience here...) is still an impressive cover, of the variety of covers that pays homage to the original, rather than tries to make it something it isn't. Me likey.

Zapp and Roger -- Heard It Through the Grapevine

You know, Roger Troutman. Invented the vocorder. I seem to have a lot of songs here with the lyrics "Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby!" in them. Is that so wrong?

Sorry it took me until so late in the day for this one, but the damn phone kept ringing.

here are the links to the rest of the gang:

Alien Fur
Chapati Mystery
Chele Blog
I See Monsters
Meghan's Deep Thoughts
Reality Remixed
Sane Libs
Sheets & Blankets
Shoulda Said
Write On Megs

02 October 2004

Steely-eyed temerity

My brief experiment with catering on Saturdays is officially over, due to widespread protests from the lower back and quad-muscle lobbies. (I'm nothing if not responsive to my constituencies.) If I hadn't made this decision after last week's grueling experience, I would be working some seaside wedding right this moment. Instead, I am sitting on my ass, reading blogs and catching up on my Tivo'd Whose Line Is It Anyway (I'm an improv geek, and Wayne Brady is smoking hot.)

I will now call to order the Cape Cod chapter of Bookworms Enamored with Seated, Sustainable Income Employment. (a.k.a. BESSIE. Motto: "moooo...")

It's almost worth my while to take a difficult, labor-intensive job every once in a while, just for the relief I feel when I don't have to do it any more. Almost. Maybe I'll do this again in six months, in case I forget what a pencil-pushing pansy I am.

And the goddess of freelance jobs has been showering me with praise and earthly delights ever since I made the "It's Not You, It's Me" phone call to the caterers on Monday. That very afternoon, I received a long-awaited check for a one-off job I did over the summer (though unfailingly polite, these particular Canadians were alarmingly slow with the ol' checkbook, even by freelancer standards), I got an email from an editor I hadn't heard from in a long time that I'd have a fair bit of work coming my way soon, and got a (favorable) response to a cold-call resume I sent months ago to someone else entirely.

So clearly I did the right thing.

In other news, I'm pretty sure my Dad has accidentally stumbled across my blog, since he keeps sort of elliptically quoting bits of what I've recently posted, then acting all casual about it. And of course I don't have the steely-eyed temerity to ask, because if I did, then he'd say "You have a blog? What's the address?" because he's recently discovered blogs and then I'd be stuck. Not that I write anything incriminating about him in this space (or any other for that matter), in fact I seem to recall I mostly say extremely nice things about him, it's just that so far, I haven't told any of my family or non-bloggish friends about my wee blog. I'm shy like that.

So if you're out there, Dad, go ahead and comment! Don't be shy! (So I know it's you, mention the name of your new boat.... aaahhh, aren't I clever? Subverting the intentions of evil commenters who might just sign their post "dad" and get me all off-guard and whatnot? I should be a spy.)

Yeah, I know, unnecessary subterfuge. It's my middle name.