31 January 2005

Damn this traffic jam

I went out shopping and random errand-running today, the course of which took me into our bustling metropolis, Hyannis, a place I usually avoid assiduously. But I really needed some of the extraordinarily fantastic tapenade they sell at this one place in Hyannis, really needed it, so I went.

I had to get the car back to Matt by 1:30, and I was cutting it close, because the tapenade store has all sorts of other wonderful and amazing sundries that required my rapt attention and perusal. By the time I pried myself away from the thrills and shocking revelations of their cheese aisle, I was indeed running late.

So I was less than pleased to quickly discover myself in a massive pile of gridlock near the airport rotary (we Cape Codders do love our rotaries...) at about the time I should have been pulling into my driveway. But I am a reasonable chick, generally not given to fuming over things over which I have no control, so I picked up my Lands' End catalog from the floor of the car and started fantasizing about it someday being warm enough to wear a tank top again. Perhaps even a black tank top with spaghetti straps. Mmmm... spaghetti....

And so on.

As we inched forward, I noticed a remarkably large flotilla of emergency vehicles parked along the sides of the road. I craned my neck to see if the TJ Maxx or Staples was on fire, but alas, no amazingly low-priced values of either cheap imported clothing or cheap imported electronics were going up in smoke. So far I had counted four fire engines, two ambulances, and about ten police cars. And a couple of guys across the street with handheld video cameras. When I was alongside the videographers, I swiveled my head to my side of the street to see what they were filming. Nothing special, it seemed, just a bank.

I thought how funny it would be if there were, like, a bank robbery in progress. It did kind of look like an Olde Cape Codde version of Dog Day Afternoon around here.

Eventually, the traffic jam let up, I put my catalog down, and -- still debating if I could still carry off my favorite shade of pale green in a tank top -- drove on home.

Then I checked the local news page online, and found this.

Not only a bank robbery, but a bomb, too! As yet, they aren't saying if the bomb was determined to be real or not. I am generally skeptical of such things, and suspect it was a fake, but my nonchalance is somewhat eroded by the fact that I was sitting in my car right in front of the damn bank for ten minutes.

And I could have gone to meet my maker whilst internally debating the merits of black lycra spaghetti straps and built-in bra support.

That's great. That's super. Pass the valium. I'm taking to my bed.

27 January 2005

The funky broadway

The day after the blizzard (no, there is nothing else I am capable of talking about, and if you had snow up to your eyeballs and more on the way you'd be a little mono-thematic as well) I shoveled our way out the back door to the car. I did not shovel out the front door, for several excellent reasons. Among them:

1. The front door opens directly into the living room, and I prefer not to have snow drifts form on the couch every time I enter or leave the premises.

2. Cape Codders don't use their front doors. True story. Ask anyone.

So: the back door. I had to take out the lower panel of the screen door, poke my head and torso out through the opening, and shovel straight down for a few feet before I could even open the door. Then I wound the path around the side of the house, past the bulkhead to the basement, down to the driveway, and to the car. Then, of course, I removed the fascinating and bizarre wind-shaped moonscapes from on top of, around, and under my car. Matt filled in (or emptied) the gap between the car and the road. Which finally got plowed yesterday.

The next day, the water meter reader gal showed up, and left a note saying that I needed to clear a path to the meter, or they would estimate my usage for the month -- and we all know in whose favor that always works. What got me is that the meter is like two steps from where the car is parked, hence, two steps from where I have shoveled. I say, bend over at the waist, maybe stick one foot into the snow, and read the damn meter.

And anyway, must you read my meter this very day? Don't you know that normal life has been suspended for the foreseeable future? But I did it. I shoveled a wee path for the wee meter reader.

Yesterday, I called the propane company to see if we were due for a delivery soon, because if we were, I'd have to dig out a path from the road to the propane tanks. The propane tanks are located on the opposite side of the house as the path to the driveway. Of course, the answer was yes. So out I went again, to clear a path for the gasman. I was more willing to do this, because I enjoy having fuel to heat and cook with. So I'm more sympathetic to this delivery guy than most.

Not as sympathetic as I am toward the guy who delivers the Thai food, but hey. We can't all be heroes.

So this morning, in the faint glow of dawn, I heard the propane guy drag his hose from the truck, up the driveway, and around the house on my beautifully sculpted path. I had even sketched a little smiley face in the snow next to the tanks, mayhap to brighten his day.

Then I heard a ruckus of boots on wood, cursing, and the front door opening and then slamming shut. As he always does, he stuck the receipt in the front door, along with a nasty note, grousing that I hadn't shoveled off the front steps.


There are now several different accessible locations for you to stick your receipt (and a few others I'd like to suggest, after you slammed the door to my living room at 6:30 in the morning, ya great git), including:

1. the back door, clearly marked by the splendid, double-wide (two shovel-widths!) path winding prominently around the house.

2. the side door next to the water meter, also clearly marked by a handy, snow-free zone.

3. inside the lid of the propane tank is also a safe place, protected from the elements, a logical place to put such a thing, and also accessible by shod foot.

Given all these options, why must you cleave to your old, hidebound ways of clomping up the front steps and sticking it between door and jamb?

Think outside the box!

Subvert the dominant paradigm!

Get up offa that thing!

Get on the good foot!

Good Gawd! Hey!

25 January 2005

Anthropology at home

Allow me to present two case studies:

The Scenario: There is a blizzard. Everyone is snowed in. Mostly everyone can dig themselves out, but some are physically incapable, whether through age or disability. How do these subjects deal with this situation? Let's watch.

1. One man who has judged himself too advanced in years to shovel his very long and steep driveway has very sensibly contracted someone to plow. The plows are very busy, so he hasn't been plowed out yet. He calls his daughter and very nicely asks, giving 24 hour notice, if she can drive over to his house the next day and take him to the store for supplies and groceries. She agrees.

2. As the daughter is on her way out the door to do said favor for said father, her mother calls. She, also, wants a favor. Would the daughter please drive by her house and tell her if her road has been plowed. She has been working at a shelter for the last two days and wants to know if she can access her house. The daughter knows this will make her late for picking up her father, but she agrees. After calling her father to tell him she will be late, she drives (at great peril!) to her mother's house. The road is plowed, but the driveway is not. She calls her mother on her cell phone and transmits this information.


"Oh, while you're there, dear, would you just go ahead and shovel the driveway for me? I'm physically incapable of doing all that work."


"No, Mom, I didn't bring my shovel with me, you didn't ask me to bring my shovel this morning, my back is already in knots from shoveling my own driveway, and I TOLD you I'm on my way to drive Dad to the store."


"Meh... meh... mooooooooooo..."


"No. Call my brother. He probably knows someone with a plow. Goodbye."


Do you see the distinctions here? The are subtle, yet glaring.

1. People who can't shovel make arrangements for someone else to do it for them, preferably a paid professional.

2. People who ask favors are most successful when they do not engage in subterfuge, obsfucation, or general evasiveness bordering on entrapment. They also ask more than 2.5 seconds in advance.

3. Daughters get cranky. Watch out.


24 January 2005

Blizzard of aught-five

Snow day!

The hurricane-force winds have calmed to relatively bearable gusts of 35 miles per hour. Visibility is finally above zero, after non-stop white-out conditions for about 36 hours. The snow drifts are piled high enough to obscure the lower halves of our windows. Our cars are unidentifiable lumps of abstract sculpture that I don't expect to see in person again for at least two days. No amount of pushing will open either the front or back doors; we'll have to dismantle the back door to start excavating our way out.

Storm total so far: 30+ inches of snow, 10-foot drifts, 78 mph peak recorded wind gusts.

We never lacked electricity, heat, contact with the outside world, provisions, or our senses of humor.

And the Patriots and the Donovan McNabbs both won.

Let the digging out begin!

21 January 2005


Right now, a ferocious Nor'easter is bearing down on poor little us again, and they're saying it'll make the last one of three weeks ago look like a summer day. 'Member that last one? The one where I had dueling electric fires in my front yard for two and a half hours? Yeah. Good times. Can't wait for the sequel.

So, along the lines of ensuring that it won't rain by bringing your umbrella out with you, I have Taken Steps.

1. Every time a hurricane has threatened for the last three years, I have bought a gallon of water. No hurricanes have done serious damage to my general area during that time. I bought four gallons of water today.

2. During the last storm, about the time sparks were starting to rain down on my roof from the nearby transformer, I realized I had no idea where our cat carrier was, and it certainly looked like evacuation was imminent there for a while. So today I climbed over the piles of gardening equipment, wine bottles, random bits of lumber, and Matt's mountain bike to reach the furthest back corner of the shed where the carrier lurked. I then brought it inside the house, where it lies ready with a comfy lining of an old bath towel.

3. The last storm used up our supply of candles, so I went and got more. Two bags of a hundred each. I also bought a massive valu-Pak of heavy duty kitchen matches, and three kinds of batteries. I also see it as a good omen that I found a flashlight on the ground the other day, and it works.

Of course, all this back-up becomes less comforting every time I check the weather channel, and they've starting tossing around the word "blizzard" with alarming regularity.

But I have the ultimate secret weapon: I even bought honest-to-God renters' insurance after that last storm. And in my experience, bad things only happen to the uninsured.

So I'll toddle off and make some beefy stew, then let it simmer on the back burner and fill the house with its aromatic steam. If the lights go out, so be it.

At least I know I have the newest transformer on the block. So it should still be under warranty, right?

17 January 2005

Great moments in words

Words have been very very good to me recently.

It goes without saying that I'm a word geek, since I make my meager living as a freelance editor, but lately I've surpassed myself. The first, and most important thing to have happened was that one of the folks I do work for suddenly decided I rock, or am made of honey, or crack, or whatever they prefer, because they went from sending me one wee job a month to sending me lots and lots and lots of interesting work. This causes me to doodle their name and mine inside little twisty hearts with arrows through them on my notebook cover.

Then, I remembered I still had a gift card to a Major National Bookstore Chain, of which type I normally disdain, for I am the defender of the independently-owned bookstore (I know, I'm doing a pretty lousy job so far), so finally finally I went and bought my very own copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (I use this vital reference book every day at work). For the last year, I've been using a copy from the only local library who didn't seem to grok that this is a reference book, and should not be loaned out. They loan it out to me, I renew the holy hell out of it, then return it for a day or two so I can take it out again. They haven't said a word over the duration of the last eight months I've been doing this, so I kept doing it. That book is muy expensivo, my friends.

But due to the generosity of whoever it was who gave me that gift card and no I can't remember I'm a horrible person who never writes thank you cards, I now have my very own copy of the best reference guide known to man or beast. (Better than a bestiary? hmmm...)

On the same giddy shopping trip I decided to spend all my gift cards, which included ten dollars at an upscale, boutique grocery store and ten dollars at a chain drugstore. So I ended up with tasty fresh mozzarella cheese and imported proscuitto, a freshly baked foccaccia and some tapenade, with which I concocted a supremely wonderful sandwichimo.

At the drugstore, I picked up some lovely lovely lipstick to replace the stick I left in the bathroom in New York (there's only one!) the last time I was there. After dining on the aforementioned sandwichimo, I went into the bathroom to model my new lipstick for myself ( a most appreciative audience) and then retired to the office to browse through my shiny new Chicago. Forgetting about my lipstick, I gave my book a little kiss on the cover, I was so happy to own it. Now there is a little mocha-cinnamon kiss directly over the title on the cover of Chicago, and I think it should stay.

And to cap it all off, I finished the New York Times Sunday Crossword in two and a half hours. In pen, natch.

Something really bad's about to happen, isn't it?

13 January 2005

Singing my life with his words

So there's this guy, see, who works with Matt. And he's fun and interesting and articulate, so when a few of us went out to play pool and drink pints the other night, he came along and we were all happy about that. Then, in a surprizing development that would have been ho-hum de rigeur a mere few years ago when we were young and wild and owned a nightclub so everyone wanted to give us drugs, we ended up hosting a wee after-hours party.

Considering my more recent habits of nearly complete isolation and hermit-like behavior involving sitting at home for days with the shades drawn, listening to Dead Can Dance, nose firmly wedged inside a book (sometimes for pay!), this was pretty exciting stuff.

We got to our house, but all the other kids except this guy and me needed to forage for cigarettes, so they all took off again into the unpopulated night of a Cape Cod winter looking for a 24-hour store, while he and I stayed home, put on some music, and got a head start on the beer.

So I gave him the tour of the house (short walk, the whole place probably fits in my car... trunk) and told him the whole story, then I elaborated that I had grown up just a couple of miles away, in the next village over. He said no way, me too!

I said Church Street and he said no way me too!

So we started jumping up and down and trying to remember if we remembered each other, which was unlikely considering he was about 7 at the time and I was about 14, which meant I spent all my time in my room with the shades drawn listening to Duran Duran and re-reading Little Women for the 57 millionth time. So I didn't get out much. plus ca change...

But he made me happy by telling me a great story about the time his brother beat up the neighborhood bully, and then he rhapsodized about the singular awesomeness of the sledding hill that was on my great grandfather's property, and we both remembered the maneuver necessary for avoiding a face full of bramble at the bottom of the hill (cross arms over chest at last minute, lie down perfectly flat, cover face with hands, wait for someone to come pull you out by your shoulders; bailing out before hitting the brambles was unthinkable, and would result in certain banishment and unlimited indian burns).

Even better, it came out that his dad was the first one on the scene when our barn burned down one icy snowy January (it was later ruled arson -- there had been a spate of arson in town that winter). My mother and I were out of the house at the time, but my brothers were home, watching cartoons (Tom and Jerry, double header from 3-4 every afternoon). Apparently the dogs (we had five Newfoundlands) were barking their heads off in the back yard, but my brothers were riveted to the always fresh and hilarious antics of animated cat and mouse, so they were ignoring this.

This guy's dad tells the story the exact same way. Barn ablaze (lots of accelerant was used, so it was quite the fireball), dogs going nuts, no humans in sight, ice and snow. He knocks on the front door, which is then opened by a sullen kid. He even notices it's Tom and Jerry on the tube. The dad says "You know your barn's on fire?" Brother says "Oh. Thanks." And shuts the door on the guy's face.

Somehow the fire department finally got the call (unless it was time for commercials, I seriously doubt the call came from our house), and by the time my mom and I got home there was nothing left of the barn. The house, my brothers -- and the dogs -- were all untouched.

And there's this guy, standing in my living room, telling me this story of my childhood (an old chestnut at family gatherings, you can be sure), and it's identical in detail. Finally the cigamachoochoo hunters returned to start the party, and we're freaking out laughing, and try to tell them how crazy all this is.

Everyone else is singularly unimpressed. They're all like, eh...small town. But I love knowing that somebody else was there, someone outside the family, there was a witness to at least this one strange episode in my childhood. I'm really not making this stuff up.

11 January 2005


Yesterday I got a sandwich at my local sandwich joint (always: turkey on toasted marble rye with lettuce tomato mayo and swiss), but before I could order, I was busily staring at the gal in the apron who wanted to take my order, pencil hovering at the ready over her pad of paper. I had just hung out with her the other night, ya see, and we had had a great time drinking beer and ardently discussing the use of pomegranate seeds as a culinary garnish (I'm still a food geek, btw, even though I don't get paid for it any more). So why didn't she recognize me? Say hi? Smile in acknowledgment?

I stood there, smiling encouragingly at her, generously allowing her time to make up for her embarrassing gaffe.

After a bit of this competitive ogling and eyebrow waggling, the truth finally outs. She's her twin. Entirely identical. Sexy husky voice and all. After a little bit of me being embarrassed and her being all "oh I get that all the time" I gave her my order. I spent the rest of lunch forcing my brain to recognize that that voice and person behind the counter was her, not her sister, and it was hard.

Then I remembered a time when I was in college, I think it was the first week of my sophomore year, when a woman I had never seen before stopped me in the garden behind the art museum, literally shook me by the shoulders, staring in my face, nose to nose, saying "Oh my GOD! Su-ZANNE!!! You're back!!! It's so great to see you!!!" (my name is not Suzanne.) Turns out this chick (suzanne) had just spent her junior year in Italy (art history major, natch), and I clearly resembled her strongly. Face-to-face-strongly. Yell in my ear strongly and insist that I am, in fact, Suzanne, and why didn't you say hi, bitch? It wasn't easy, but I finally got away from that nutcase in the garden.

Remembering this, I smiled to myself, tossed away the wrapper for my most delicious turkey sandwich and brought the little wicker plate up to the counter (because good people bus their own damn tables, and if you don't know that, there's little hope for you), told my friend's sister it was nice to have met her, and left.

If I am not Suzanne, then you are not your sister, and I will now stop staring at you and treating you like a carnival freak.


04 January 2005

Unemployed... in Greenland

I want to take a moment to reflect on where I was at this time last year, and how I am specifically not there right now. Well, sure, I'm still sitting in the same comfy chair staring at the same computer screen. But just for the sake of argument, let's not be quite so literal right now.

Last year at this time, I had just gotten laid off for the winter from a job that I hated, working for someone who was one of the most angry, petty, chemically unbalanced people I have ever had the misfortune of relying on for an income. Once, she called me in for an unscheduled performance review just as I was on my way out the door, all dressed up, for my brother's wedding. She quite unapologetically made me cry, and you can see my puffy red eyes in every photo from the ceremony and reception. Nasty piece of work, that.

So I was less than enthusiastic about going back under her thumb when the shop reopened in the spring, but I put off making it official for a couple of months while I swabbed my wounded ego with my weekly unemployment checks. Then, of course, I got a nicely worded letter from the big bully that my services wouldn't be required in the spring. Fine with me, I said! But of course that put my ego right back down where it had started, requiring a few more weeks of soft, cuddly unemployment checks and more wallowing. A fair bit of tequila was also involved.

Then I got my act together. I took a couple of courses in editing, got some fancy-schmance certificates for my troubles, and hung out my shingle as a freelance editor. I now proofread books, mostly mass-market fiction, for a couple of publishing houses in NYC, and I also do scientific editing for a few corporational types. I've been supporting myself in this manner ever since.

If you've been to this site more than once or twice, you know that I frequently fret about the crippling isolation and utter lack of human contact that are inherent in the freelance lifestyle. NOTE TO UNIVERSE: I AM NOT COMPLAINING. PLEASE DISREGARD.

This time last year, I was feeling sorry for myself, moping around the house, and still ranting about the she-devil I used to work for. Now I am gainfully employed doing something I love, that I can do in my sweatpants, that uses my brain rather than my brawn (I had been working as a cook), that even (gasp!) makes use of my dusty old degree in geology from Mount Holyoke. And as I like to say, I love all my co-workers, and ya can't beat the commute. I don't make as much money as I used to, but I'm more than happy with the trade-off in quality of life.

I've also started seeing a nutritionist, who has informed me that my past eating habits were so wrong for me that I probably had been experiencing things like poor short-term memory, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and insomnia. I thought she was secretly best friends with my old boss, because, incidentally, those were some things that she used to berate me about. I've changed my habits, and boy was that nutritionist right on the money. So maybe I was just the teensiest bit to blame there, and maybe the Queen of the Damned wasn't entirely filled to the brim with bile and spite. But really, she was. Just look at those damn wedding pictures that will sit on my mother's piano for all eternity.

Anyway, I'm glad I'm where I am now, and not where January found me last year.

Although I do miss those regular checks.

02 January 2005

Prognostication of the posterior

While going through my rounds of blogs today before settling down to doing real, actual work that I get paid real, actual money for, I discovered a repeating theme among three of my favorite reads. All were posted on about the same day, and it's pretty clear it wasn't one of those word-of-blog meme things.

All discussed poop.

Granted, all three are new-ish parents, and therefore their propensity for poopy pontificating might be shrugged off and delicately ignored by those of us whose main contact with non-proprietary poop (i.e., not our own, patented poop) is in, or at least near, the litter box. But they are all quite funny and highly entertaining, so I direct you first here, then here, and finally here. And, of course, it should be noted that one of these charming poets of poop is, well, known for her preoccupation with the products of the posterior.

But it made me laugh, and also made me wonder if this was an omen for the coming year. Not just that it will be filled with crap... we all know that, we lived through last year, so we have a pretty clear-eyed view of what's in store, right? But beyond that, I hope that this is a sign that we will meet the crap head-on, as it were, and mock it, taunt it, belittle it, and shake it down for its lunch money. That we will stand firm against the crap, not cower in the corner and wish it would go away, or at least stop stinking up our corner of the house for a while. Fight the Poop. Fight the poop that be.

Or at least keep cheering each other on, and pass the mop.

Happy New Year!