27 December 2005

It's a towel... for the floor!

I hope everyone else had a holiday weekend as mellow and nice as mine was. It's amazing how peaceful life can be when you give in to your basic misanthropic feelings, pull the shades, and turn off the phone.

My husband and I are both happiest at home, lounging around and variously reading or playing video games according to our tastes, so it's not surprizing that we both gave gifts with a sort of Home Spa theme. I gave him all sorts of fun toys for the bath, including a shower cap with bees on it, a vat of bubble bath, and some squeaky toys. The first present I opened from him was a bathmat, the perfect size and the most wonderful shade of green.

To truly understand my joy about this gift, you would have to be privy to some seriously intimate knowledge of our relationship, and you would have had to have listened to the Holiday Spectacular of This American Life over the weekend. Or just be David Sedaris. In which case I am seriously freaked out that you are reading this.

Freaked out in a pleasant way, though, like in the way that Frank Zappa meant when he said freaked out. And with all of the groupie-ness that implies.

Wow. I wonder if anyone ever throws underwear at David Sedaris at his readings?

Other notable gifts were trinkets for my new office, since I will have my own office with a door you can shut and a dedicated phone line for the first time since grad school, which was literally a decade ago. I realized about a week ago that I was entering the land of the desk decorations, and started fixating on what one needs to personalize one's office space with. I've been working in such totally non-office work spaces for so long (show line at a fancy restaurant, live-music nightclub, a children's theatre, the spare bedroom) that I have absolutely no idea what the standards are anymore.

Do people still put pictures of loved ones on their desks? Inspiring bits of poetry on the dry-erase board? Little mementos of past triumphs?

When I was in grad school I used to have whatever bits of Shakespeare or Keats were running through my head that week on the dry-erase board in my office, which was maybe a tip-off that I wasn't wholeheartedly invested in becoming a geologist. My advisor pointed that out when I asked her if there were any good courses available in Early American Poetry next semester, when she was hoping I would maybe take some more Radiometric Geochemistry.

I started working at the nightclub shortly after that conversation.

So I got a few Doo-Dads for the Serious Young Professional this Christmas, and this, which is perhaps more of a give-away of my true proclivities than the pen set and mousepad.

The only drag about the weekend was that I woke up Sunday morning with my eyeball on fire, seriously considering going to the emergency room. I had some eyedrops left over from my last eye infection not long ago, so I emptied half the bottle into my sore eye and felt better after a few excruciating hours of searing eyeball pain. That night I realized that my right eye had become noticeably more nearsighted during the ordeal, so I suddenly need new glasses and contacts. Gah. Why am I always breaking all over?

23 December 2005

Don't make me go out there again

Last minute shopping. Why?!

It started off very well, going to a local lavender farm that has a gift shop with nifty gifts you can buy on the honor system, which was pretty much the perfect shopping environment. Just me, by myself, in a lovely old shed redolent of lavender, picking out little soaps and things. Then I checked myself out (woo!) by writing down my purchases in their little sales register book, tallying it all up with their little calculator, and putting my money in the cash box. Splendid. There were even nice bags to put my stuff in.

So peaceful. So civilized. Emboldened, I headed out for town. I had to pick up a couple of small gifts I had forgotten I needed, since I had forgotten that my brother, single for lo these thirty-seven years, now suddenly has a girlfriend with two small children. Oh, curse you people with your growing families.

So I picked out some nice puzzles and books (I buy semi-educational gifts for kids, always, and I NEVER gender-theme gifts. Gad. Zooks. No.) and got some nice wrapping for the putting in. My last stop was the grocery store, which was of course a mob scene, but I was interested to find that virtually all the patrons I came across in the aisles had that grim sense of we're all miserable together type of forbearance, and any grumpiness was pretty much tamped down. I had a bit of a hassle at the self-serve register, but the loveliest gal was right behind me in line, patient throughout, and she even wished me a nice holiday when I bagged up and departed. Nice person.

So why am I so frustrated and grumpy? Is it because I have now spent my entire paycheck on the day I received it? Is it because I haven't yet told my mother I have no intention of going to church this year? Is it, in fact, because I received my mother's card today, on which she had ostentatiously crossed out the pre-printed "Happy Holidays" and written in "Merry Christmas"???

H'm... perhaps that's it.

Why? Why? Why?

One can only assume that she bought these cards herself! And that she had every opportunity to pick out cards that mentioned the holiday of her choice on them! Did she knowingly pick out secular cards so that she could write in "Christmas!", and make some sort of War On Christmas point? Mom is pretty much all about teh Jesus, and she has a tenuous grasp on social skills as it is, so I really can't rule it out.

When I got home I showed this card to my husband, who is Jewish, without comment. He read it, rolled his eyes, and said Well, Christy Christ Christ to you too, Mom.

*** Edit***
In the interest of furthering not only the proper holiday spirit, but also a brilliant radio show, check this out.

20 December 2005

The thing with feathers

The Grinch has apparently stolen all the Christmas trees, this time before they even got into people's houses, hung and strung and jammed underneath with presents. Good thing I don't have room for a tree in my wee cottage anyway.

I usually do this, wait until the last week before Christmas to decorate. It isn't that I'm too busy, necessarily, or that I need to wait until the prices go down, although that is certainly a delightful side effect. I'm pretty sure it dates back to my upbringing as a strict Episcopalian. I bet you didn't know there was such a thing, except as it applied to the daily required intake of sherry, what-what old chap?

There is such a thing, and my mother is it, God love her. Strict Episcopalianism involves paying a great deal of attention to the liturgical year. This mostly translates into what color to wear during the coffee hour after church, since each season has an assigned, appropriate color. It's really only supposed to be for the altar vestments and those wacky folks up on stage, but everyone likes to get in on the act and wear the team colors, as it were.

You get to wear green all summer long, because that's Pentecost, a period of time that goes on and on forever without any interesting readings from scripture or Events in the Life of Jesus to celebrate. If you ever wondered when they ever got around to reading all of those "begats" in the Bible, it's during Pentecost. This is when all the priests take vacations and go fishing with their spouses. Episcopalian priests are allowed to have a wife or be a wife, if they so choose. It's all quite up to the individual, which I think is damned civilized.

There's some sort of bloodless battle over whether one should wear purple or red during Passion week, the week before Easter, but I try not to get involved. Choirs have been broken up over less.

One quirky side effect of all this strict adherence to the church calendar is that one realizes that it is not Christmas until it is, well, Christmas. The four weeks prior to the blessed day itself are collectively known as Advent. During Advent one sings Advent carols, such as O Come O Come Emmanuel, not Christmas carols, such as O Little Town of Bethlehem. Advent is a time for preparing oneself for Christmas, but you are not supposed to act as if you know what is going to happen. It's like Christmas is a surprise party we have every single year at the same time. And at the same person's house.

So I tend not to decorate until it's just about Christmas, because until then, it's just Advent, which is mostly celebrated by humming Advent carols and munching on the stale chocolate found in cheap, imported Advent calendars. Why is the chocolate always awful in those things?

I am also more of a pagan with a serious Zen meditation habit these days than an Episcopalian, and so I feel less burdened to follow most elements of the liturgical year. But since so much of the liturgical year is lifted directly out of old pagan traditions, I am mostly down with it anyway.

So today I hauled in my twelve feet (for the twelve days of Christmas) of evergreen garland and a nice, big, fir bough wreath, set some nice little votives in and among the branches, being very careful not to set fire to anything, stuck in a few of the cards we've received from our friends this year, and hung the wreath over the fireplace.

Then I lit a whole extravagant mess of sandalwood incense, the kind we used at the Zendo in New York where I learned to meditate, and thought for a while about the sun gradually returning by degrees, the days finally getting longer and lighter. I like the feeling that I am keeping at least a little bit of green life inside, warm and safe, during this coldest and darkest time, so that if the worst happens and all else is blighted, not all is lost.


Lighthouse Wreath


And because I am my mother's daughter, it will all come down, like clockwork, on Epiphany. Now if only I could find a good performance of Twelfth Night somewhere nearby.

18 December 2005


Last week I spent a couple of pleasant evenings working on a scarf for a friend of mine, made out of soft, furry purple angora-blend yarn and some silver iridescent eyelash yarn. Sounds like a fright, you say? Correct.

So I frogged it just now, entertaining the kittens to no end -- sparkly eyelash yarn is now their best friend -- and started knitting a scarf with just the purple yarn, ripped it out after a couple of rows, started it again in a new stitch pattern, ripped it again and threw the yarn across the room.

I hate this yarn. I want a divorce.

It is entirely repulsive to me now. I have no idea what I saw in it in the first place. I find its presence in my closet to be passive-aggressive, almost sinister. It exists to prove my bad judgement, my poor taste, my rash decision-making.

The color is brash and unsubtle. The fuzziness is tawdry. No possible stitch pattern could redeem this yarn. I am, however, considering turning it into a tiny pocket creature like this. With the silver iridescent eyelash as the hair.

In absolutely unrelated news to my foul mood and irritability, my husband just left for his radio show. He has a little book that he writes down all of his song titles in as he plays them, and can never look for this book until he is running late. Back when he had a car that was reliable, he just left it in his car. Along with six month's worth of food wrappers, dirty coffee cups, newspapers, and ATM receipts.

Now that he uses my fabulous new car, I struggle to keep the interior clean. I do not leave shit in the car. Not a thing. I consider this a slippery slope, a matter of principle. So, on Monday mornings, when I get back in the car after he has driven it to the radio station and back in the middle of the night, I empty it of his debris.

Now he wants to know where his book is.

I tell him where I put it when I cleaned out the car last week. It's not there now. He is late. I tell him to take his notes on scrap paper, he can transcribe it to the book later.

In a fit of getting-the-last-word-in, he says, as he swings the door shut behind him, I don't see how my little book is ruining your car.

Your little book does not ruin my car. One little ATM receipt also does not ruin my car. But I know what will happen: I have been here before.

I buy a nice shiny new car, resolve to keep it clean this time. After a week or so, you spill coffee all over the dash and do not clean it up. The dash is now sticky and gross, and it is not my fault. I do not wipe it up, which is admittedly my bad. Having gotten your dirty little foot wedged in the door, however, it is only a matter of days before there is a change of clothes, five empty coffee cups, and a half-empty bag of Doritos in the back of my car.

You do not get to leave your book in my car because it is not just a book. It is the opening, the tiny hole in the dike, the hairline fracture in the dam.

You do not get to leave your book in my car because we live in a tiny house the size of a postage stamp and are therefore in each other's earholes with each other's stuff. There is no corner of the house that is entirely mine, and you are a tornado, spewing your personal effects wherever you touch down. This is my car, and I get to decide how it is kept.

You do not get to leave your book in my car because you are not in the house for two minutes without dropping a pair of dirty socks in the kitchen, your belt in the living room, your pants in the bathroom.

You do not get to keep your book in my car because that is not where it goes. The lid goes on the sugar jar, not beside it, dirty dishes go in the sink, not where you ate off them, and the book does not go in my car.

You do not get to leave your book in my car because it is my car, dammit. You have a car. It is a piece of crap. It is already over for your car. My car is in the prime of its youth, unspoiled and clean. There is no reason to hasten its demise.

And now you really don't get to keep your book in my car because you have now made this An Issue: evidence of my inflexibility, my tenuous hold on sanity, my lack of cool.

Well, suck it up. It doesn't go in my damn car.

17 December 2005

Lane marker

I gave myself an early Christmas present yesterday and bought a membership at the Y. I've been dying to start swimming laps again, something I did a bit obsessively in college. I am generally obsessive about all that I do, really. And the thing that was killing me was that I had a relatively new racing suit languishing in my sock drawer at home, having bought it a few years ago on a whim. And I also still own a very nice, rather expensive pair of goggles with prescription lenses in them, so that I don't bump into the sides of the pool, as I am blind as the proverbial moonbat without my contacts or glasses.

This isn't one of those New Year resolutions to get fit or anything, screw resolutions. It just so happens that the timing is finally right, and I finally have the money, and the Y is right off the highway. I'll be seeing a fair bit more of the highway in days to come, what with the new commute and all.

(Oh, did I mention? I got the job. Wheeeee!)

And so, I will swim laps, sometimes in the early mornings before work, sometimes in the late afternoons after work, perhaps the occasional lunch hour dip, depending on how hard it is to get a lane to myself in this pool.

I wonder how hilariously out of shape I am, how many laps I'll be able to complete without clinging dazedly to the side of the pool and wondering if it would be easier to swim if I shaved my legs more often. The last time I tried to get back into swimming I was smoking an insane number of cigarettes daily and working in a nightclub. That didn't go so well. There's a law, I think, that if you work in a nightclub, you aren't allowed to have any healthy habits. Even bouncers aren't really supposed to work out to get all big and strong and surly; it's best if they are just born that way.

At least I don't smoke any more. That at least gives me a fighting chance in the pool.

And how out of shape I am really doesn't concern me too much, either. I used to be all, ooh, I have to lose some weight before I can get back into a suit. But -- I don't know if it's age, or wisdom, or apathy -- I've reached the point where I honestly don't give a damn what anyone else thinks about me in a swimsuit. I want to swim, dammit.

And I have these really cool goggles!

13 December 2005

Lighten up, Francis

I was at the store the other day getting my daily fix of this tasty beverage and not much else, maybe a magazine. Two 2-liter bottles and a magazine. It was after the dinner hour, so the place was pretty deserted, but it wasn't so late that they had already closed down the self-serve registers, so I headed for the nearest one of those so I could zip in and zip out.


I had a sense of forboding as soon as I got in line behind this chick who was just finishing paying. She seemed, how shall I say, highly strung. I hung back a bit, giving her some space while she started bagging her not-small pile of groceries, and then I stepped up to the scanner in as non-threatening a way as I could muster.

I scanned my two bottles of soda and sent them merrily on their way down the belt. As the first bottle neared her pile of unbagged groceries, the highly strung lady did a remarkable thing: she suddenly flung her upper body across the conveyor belt... in what could only be interpreted as a desperate attempt to protect her groceries from any befouling contact with mine.

Arms outstretched, feet off the floor, her body weight balanced on her torso, lying across the side of the check-out counter, she glared at me as I helpfully tried to hand her the sturdy plastic bar they have velcroed to the side for just this purpose: to separate people's orders. Trying to reassure her that our items wouldn't get all confused together, I smiled and said something like,

It's OK, I only have these three things, I'll be out of here in a moment...

Her glare grew incredulous, as I clearly didn't appreciate the gravity of the situation.

MY BERRIES!!! She gritted through her teeth. YOU'RE CRUSHING MY BERRIES!!!

I looked down, and sure enough, there -- getting profoundly squashed under her allegedly protective torso, I might add -- were two little plastic-wrapped pints of raspberries.

First of all, who buys raspberries in December? And then expects them to taste like anything approaching raspberries?

Second, it ain't my bottles of sparkly water that are endangering your precious berries, ma'am, it's your own flailing limbs.

And finally, lady, lighten up. I'm guessing everything you cook, including your famous raspberry strudel or whatever the hell it is, tastes overwhelmingly of stress, anger and fear. And that probably tastes even worse than the Unhappy Marriage Upside Down Cake my aunt used to make.

08 December 2005

Buried lede

I have spent WAY too much on yarn and needles since I took up knitting a couple of months ago, but because it's the holiday season I am able to justify it all as "gift expenses." As if I ever spend this much money on anyone I'm not currently sleeping with. Or hoping to. Wait, I'm married. Never mind that last bit.

So everyone is getting knitted things this year, and they better like it. Because it wasn't that long ago that I had to fall back on the old standby of giving "gift certificates" for me to come over and cook a nice dinner, weed your garden, wash your windows -- basically debase myself and be utterly servile in order to wash away the shame of not being able to afford presents.

I've actually become pretty good at this knitting thing in such a short period of time. I'm mean, I'm not setting the world on fire, but I'm at least adventurous and willing to experiment. Wait, when did this become a personal ad?

I stayed in Scarfland for only about two weeks, then I discovered hats and mittens, then I realized that everything would look much better if I knitted it with much smaller needles, so my gauge has gotten progessively smaller and smaller with each project. The last hat I knit has been widely assumed to have been store-bought, which is of course high praise.

I have only recently attempted to tame the Power of the Sock, a quest that has caused my first real moments of teary-eyed frustration so far. Some idiot convinced me to jump right into the Magic Loop method, which I think was designed to make you cry, and I have no idea why I listen to yarn shop bullies. But Yarn Shop Bullies would make a good band name.

But wrassling with socks is doing a good job of distracting me from today's very distracting news that I might actually get my wish for a megafuckingbrilliant job. Keep those fingers crossed, and maybe I'll reward you with some naughty knitted knickers. oooh yeah.

05 December 2005

The old Cross house

I grew up in a crumbling old Victorian house, in a neighborhood of crumbling old Victorian houses. At the time, ours was no more falling-down that the rest -- this was the seventies and none of the families had the wherewithal to gentrify anything yet, least of all this gang of old sea captains' houses clustered around the cove. But the house that the Cross family lived in was particularly nice.

It had a garrett -- a round, pointed turret sticking off of one side of the house -- and, like most bookish young girls, I thought that having a garrett in which I could retreat and read and write and enjoy Dickensonian solitude was the answer to all my problems. When I finally got invited to play in that garrett, it was full of dress-up clothes for little girls; princess gowns and tiaras and fairy wands instead of shelves of books and a writing desk and scones wrapped up in linen handkerchiefs for nibbling on. It was someone's fantasy hideaway, but not mine.

The Cross family was like the Brady Bunch to me; the parents were young and attractive and frequently kissed, and the three kids were well turned out individuals as well. They were culturally hip and current and watched the Monkees and Little House on the Prairie while we watched the Gong Show and old Danny Kaye movies over and over again. The kids called their parents by their first names, Joanne and Gary.

I remember the youngest girl, when she was about five, watching me as I stood over my bike, stradling the crossbar of my girls' Schwinn three-speed. She told me, loudly so that everyone could hear, that I would "hurt my vagina" that way. There were boys nearby, including her brother and mine. My mother was a nurse, and had taught us all the anatomical names for such in things, but hadn't forgotten the manners portion of the lesson. I knew I had one, but it never would have occurred to me to discuss someone else's with them.

They didn't trust doctors; they went to a chiropractor, which my mother the nurse strongly disapporoved of. To this day she looks down her nose at chiropractors and thinks of them as hippie fake doctors, and I can tell she is thinking of the Cross family when she wrinkles her nose at the mention of a bone doctor.

I noticed at Thanksgiving that the old Cross house was being gutted and turned into a bed and breakfast. The house has aged beautifully, over the years acquiring gingerbreading along the trim and a rolling, elegant garden out front. Meanwhile, our house has turned into the haunted house of the neighborhood, the roof caving in, ivy growing through the windows, my brother's creepy statuary in the side yard.

I asked my mother about the Cross house, which she remembers by a different name, the name of the family that lived there when she was a kid. The original sea captain was a Baker, she says, which would make it part of our family. I think my mother still thinks our family owns half the cove and sails the seas in search of whale oil. For that matter, I think I do, too.

Now it will be called something else by the kids in the neighborhood, just like none of those kids know now that the house with the sledding hill on it was my great-great-grandfather's, just two doors down from the Cross house, and that it is properly called The Old House, as it predates those bourgeous sea captains' houses by a good hundred years.

I wish someone would turn my mother's house into a bed and breakfast, and rescue the beautiful marquetry floors and mohagany secretaries filled with blown eggs and little brass bells. Someone should stop the ivy from climbing in to my old bedroom through the windows, revive the garden, wallpaper the hall. It has become the neighborhood embarrassment, the place to avert your eyes from, the house not to go trick-or-treating at.

This house, among all the houses built by seafarers, was built by the widow of a whaling captain, not by the captain himself. It's less pretty, less of a showcase. More of a place to stay home in than a place to dream of in far-off places. And when they finish renovating the old Cross house, my mother's house will sink down into the ground a little more, as it becomes increasingly shamed by its surroundings, and its failure to keep up with the times and retain its youthful charm.

02 December 2005

Post-it notes of Sodom

Man, I have tried five times to write about something other than work tonight and each and every story turns into a work story, so I delete it and start over. It's all good, they're happy, funny stories, and I love my work, but I'm pretty tetchy about discussing work too specifically here.

But apparently it's all I can think about right now! Work! And the possibility of it being awesome!

What do other people do at times like this, when they are stumped for wry, insightful stories to tell? Oh, I know, I can post pictures of my cat:



Satchel, still possessed

OK, nevermind, there's one story I think I can tell.

I was on the phone today with someone who I know is a vocal activist of the super-ultra-right-wing stripe, someone who is vehemently against just about everything I think is true and good. Like my right to not have to submit to the will of my husband as my lord and master. Like the right of my lesbian best friend to get married, never mind the right for her not to be considered a vile sinner in the Eyes of Gawd. Like the right to determine for myself whether or not I want to have a kid. Like the free exchange of good, honest porn. Really. This guy is a real Falwell.

Which reminds me, you should totally read this.

And I couldn't help but think, as I took down his message, about how much he thinks I am wrong, wrong, unholy and wrong, and am going to hell hell hell. Like I've been in the real-life version of every single room of those Fundy Christian "House of Horrors" they have at Halloween, and LIKED it.

Which, of course, I have.

Of course I didn't declare myself, didn't interrupt our perfectly innocuous conversation to let him know that I am totally a commie pinko queer leftist. I may be evil, but I am a professional, for crying out loud.

But I did try to think particularly perverse thoughts while I took down his number, and then I doodled lesbian symbols and pentagrams next to his name.

Then I transferred the information to a fresh post-it note, sans doodles, and went on with my day.