24 February 2007


And just like that, the week is gone. I can't think when I've ever had to take a whole week off of work, unless you go back to the Great Strep Days of Sixth Grade. Granted, this was a four-day week because of the holiday, and if today had been Friday I surely would have gone in.

But now it is the weekend and I have two more days of recuperation ahead of me.

And LOTS of housecleaning to do.

The man in my life has seen fit to suspend all housecleaning responsibilities during my illness, so there is quite a bit of a backlog of scrubbing and tidying to do. Yeah, it's pretty annoying. But perhaps I will take a walk in the beautiful sunshine before commencing to clean, as my grumpy mood might be at least partly attributable to my general lack of activity and exposure to fresh air over the last week.

The roaring headache I woke up with I can attribute to one of several things:

1. A sympathetic hangover, as said dilatory husband also saw fit to come home roaring drunk last night, reeking of cigarettes and beer, make another big mess in the kitchen by way of a very wobbly dinner of noodles, and then crash into bed, still splendidly odoriferous, mountainous, and inert.

Verdict: Not bloody likely.

2. A belated caffeine-withdrawal headache, as my stomach flu has necessitated a strict diet of lemon tea and ginger ale for six straight days now, and my body is perhaps only now realizing how bereft and alone it is without its one remaining chemical dependency (that, and the dopamine produced by continual period-drama-fueled romantic fantasizing). I am testing this theory now with my very first post-sickness cup of coffee.

Verdict: More than probable.

3. A melancholic humor produced by my own enforced inertness, lack of physical and mental exercise, and profoundly limited dietary intake. Perhaps I will need to be taken to the surgeon to be bled until the humor is released.

Verdict: An entirely sound and sensible scientific conclusion.

As regards my period drama habit, I considered it to be a distinct mark of restraint and reserve that I turned down an invitation to go see Amazing Grace last night at the movie theatre. Now only does it star Ioan Gruffudd, that sexy Welsh actor who played poor, doomed Bosinney in The Forsyte Saga, it features an untold number of other Sexy British People in Breeches (tm).

This is my favorite genre since Merchant Ivory stopped making Sexy British People Being Awkward and Firmly Repressing their Feelings (tm) (c.f., Howard's End, A Room With a View, A Handful of Dust). However, my devotion to that genre began to pale a little when I realized that the entry fee was having to watch Helena Bonham-Carter walk stiffly about with the same pinched look on her face in every damn movie.

This was offset for some time by the regular appearance of Rupert Graves.

But that was then, this is now, and I refused to watch Amazing Grace in public last night, mainly due to my dislike of movie theatres and the people in them (they talk). I will happily wait until the movie is available on DVD or OnDemand, and I can watch with my own preferred comestibles at hand and rewind over all the good steamy parts.

I also had preparations to concern myself with for tonight's festivities -- in a valiant effort to provide me with at least ONE person in my social circle who has seen the damn thing, my dear friend Saucygrrl is coming over tonight to enjoy the entire run of Jane Eyre in one sitting. I just got the DVD in the mail yesterday.

So this is one more reason why I have to spend the rest of the day cleaning house -- I have tawdry, shameful doings to attend to tonight. I also have to assemble appropriate kibble for such an event, consisting of any food product (save porridge) that is mentioned in the film and is reasonably amenable to modern tastes.

Including but not limited to:
  • meringues
  • des bon bons
  • des amandes
  • lots of tea

I do believe this will call for more coffee. Woo! Lots more coffee!

21 February 2007

nice try walleye

After spending most of yesterday convincing myself I was ready to go back to work today, I dutifully set my alarm and laid out my work clothes. I should have known when it took me four times longer than usual to get out of the shower that things were maybe not going according to my plan.

By the time I stepped out of my car at the office I knew I had made a mistake. I sat at my desk for about 45 minutes, trying to at least knock off those few tasks that I knew needed doing right away, but even my computer wasn't digging it, and crashed on me, twice.

I can take a hint.

Back home I went, jiggedy jig. On the way home I rearmed myself with fresh supplies of ginger ale and chicken soup, which have been my sole source of caloric input for four days now.

My photographer friend asked me if it wasn't nice to fast for a change, a comment which I am very pointedly choosing not to take offense at. The naturally thin and attractive can be so trying sometimes, but they are nice to have around one.

So I'm back to my routine of bed, bed, tv, and bed, with a little bit of sock-knitting and soup-sipping thrown in. I've already re-watched all my favorite shows (you know who you are), including all five hours of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Having done so, I can now state without hesitation that Jane Eyre Is Better. It's darker, gloomier, more emotionally fraught, MUCH more toweringly Gothic, and there are far fewer silly little dance scenes.

What it really comes down to is this:

Rochester kicks Darcy's Ass.

And I've got the shirt to prove it.

19 February 2007


I feel like I've been kidney-punched in both kidneys. I feel like I swallowed a gallon of acid and it is sloshing around in my stomach on the spin cycle. I feel like all my muscles have been stretched out like rubber bands, finely abraded with a steel-toothed comb, then hung back on their joints exactly 3 millimeters off center.

In short, I feel 100% better than I did yesterday.

Yesterday morning I awoke in a strange bed, in a clean, light-filled house. The lovely Linda of days of yore had graciously allowed me to stay in her abode, had further employed her wiles to persuade her two housemates to go along with the plan, and the place was delightful -- warm, tidy, inviting, book-filled and interestingly bathroom-fixtured.

There were three cats resident who accepted me with varying levels of affection, the most forthcoming being the Manx. She checked on me at regular intervals to ensure that I had every opportunity to praise her beauty, wit and grace, which I accordingly obliged.

The bed was warm and soft, and I fell quickly asleep, faintly wondering if it was just in my honor that the only photographs in the room were college-era images of Linda -- several different versions of her senior picture, as I recall. So I am no nearer to knowing what she looks like now, alas.

I awoke tired, I thought because of the rigors of travel from the day before and the minimum number of hours I had been able to sleep. I got up and did things for about an hour, but felt queasy, so I decided to go back to bed for a couple of hours until my next date with my friends and their baby.

We had arranged to go to church together in Amherst, then to lunch at the Black Sheep Cafe. I had the longer drive, from Linda's house to Amherst, but I still got there well before they did, and took my seat with a nice young gentleman who was engagingly shy while helping me find my place in the prayer book.

After a few minutes, my friends arrived and took seats directly behind me. Almost immediately, I developed a need to locate the facilities. Because the church's annex was under construction, this involved going back outside, where it was now snowing, down the street, around the corner, down another street, and into the old rectory. Then through several deserted classrooms, the choir room, and a door that looked like it would alert the National Guard when I pushed through its panic bar.

But I made it in time, and spent perhaps longer than a healthy person might reasonably expect to spend in a strange, cold bathroom. It was then that I suspected that all was not well.

In time I made it back to my pew, just in time for the end of the sermon, suffered silently through the announcements, the prayers, and the general confession, and when the handshaking began for the exchange of the peace, I knew I had to go.


Because my brain was fuddled with the sudden onset of flu, I shook the nice shy boy's hand, then turned to my friends and held back, saying "I shouldn't, I'm sick."

Then I looked back at the shy boy, aghast, and apologized, and he just shrugged with Episcopalian good nature. Nothing a small glass of dry sherry can't fix, he was probably thinking.

I uttered some inanity about needing to buy a bottle of water, promised to meet them on the church steps when the service was over, and promptly did none of those things.

I went back down the street, around the corner, into the old rectory and through the series of rooms to find my porcelain haven, where I remained for ten minutes. Now seriously dehydrated, I looked around outside for a corner store that might sell me some water, but by now I was entirely focused on Getting the Hell Out of Dodge, as a long, painful drive of over three hours separated me from my bed.

I had planned to buy Linda some thoughtful gift and leave it on the kitchen table after lunch. That plan was abandoned. I had only enough energy to go back and deposit my borrowed (and not copied, fear not, oh formidable Sarah!) keys in their agreed-on location, slouch back into the car and turn my face towards the highway.

I called Erica from the road. She understood. She had seen from my pallor in the church that I wouldn't be coming back for lunch that day.

I stopped at the first rest station on the pike to fortify myself with water and sugar (some sort of gatoradey drink) and pretzels, of which I managed to eat I believe three during the entire drive, spent another ten minutes in the bathroom, and got back on the road with grim determination.

Luckily I had an audio book of The Woman in White on my pod to keep my mind off my troubles, which it did admirably. The roads weren't icy, nor was traffic too heavy, but I had to keep a weather eye on the speedometer because the road was simply filthy with speed traps that day.

I made it back to my home. If I could have driven directly into my bedroom and rolled out of the car and under the covers I would have. As it was, I still had some lengthy rituals to perform in the bathroom before staggering into the bedroom, divesting myself of every scrap of clothing in 1.4 seconds and diving under the blankets, shivering so much I upset the cats.

I slept for about 5 hours, got up, watched some tv, went back to bed, and woke up this morning sore from too much lying down. Now, having sat up for a half hour writing this, I think I am once again ready to lie down for another five hours.

Donations of chicken soup, ginger ale, and lemon tea will be gratefully accepted.

14 February 2007

now voyager

Well it looks like I am bound for the western parts of the state this weekend for a whirlwind trip to visit the little Henry Bean before he becomes less of a Bean and more of a Henry. My two dear friends who have brought him into this world have found a window of potential non-exhaustion in which they think they can entertain me for a day or so.

I will cook them dinner and help with laundry and line up their spices into little symmetrical rows in my adorably OCD way all for the privilege of hanging our with their very very and extremely new-to-the-planet person.

Of course, there's been this nasty little storm this week that, although it was a serious non-starter for Cape Cod was a serious punch in the neck for Western Massachusetts. And I am famously squeamish about Driving In Weather. But I will go! Bravely! Into! The Breach! Because I do have new tires and because I am feeling heroic and they are my dear friends (one, my best friend from college and the other, her wife) and also I totally have a huge case of cabin fever.

I needed a place to stay, since one does not come to visit people who have just moved to Babyland and ask to crash on their couch, and IT SO HAPPENS that an old friend of mine looked me up from out of the blue last week (and elicited this post) and IT SO HAPPENS that she lives in Northampton and IT SO HAPPENS that she is awesome and will let me stay there and make out with her cats even though neither she nor her wife will be RESIDENT in said house while I am there.

Yes, someone I haven't seen in 15 years is giving me the keys to her house and refrigerator so I can entertain myself unattended for the weekend, based on the residue of good will and trust that I apparently still have with her after a decade and a half of no contact and a half-hour-long phone conversation.

Man. I must have been cute in college.

Better not send her pictures of me now until after I get her keys copied.

12 February 2007

glass houses

Yah so I watched Sleepy Hollow over the weekend and it was fun. That movie had a higher body count than I usually see in a year's worth -- OK a decade's worth -- of movies, but it was all Tim Burton style cutesie-pie death so it didn't make me squirm.

And why is it so very delightful to see Johnny Depp get squirted with blood repeatedly? Tim must think it is just as delightful as I do, because he must have done it seven times in that flick.

So that fulfilled my need to watch an attractive man prance about in breeches and a cravat for the weekend. But I still felt compelled to indulge my Jane Eyre obsession by trolling the netherworlds of the internet to find other, similarly obsessed individuals. And that little experiment was much more of a horror show than anything Tim Burton had to serve up.

Here's a tip: if you ever need to rid yourself of an obsession, find a fansite devoted solely to the object of your affection. Preferably one with lots of fanfic. And animated emoticons.

I found a few of these dedicated to Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre fame, (or at least the actor who portrayed him in the latest BBC adaptation) and may I say this:

Holy le Crap.

People are nuts! And have enormous amounts of free time!

And THEN I saw what these people post on YOUTUBE to attest to their undying love.


I had actually come across this breed of fansite once before when I became enamored of a certain TV show that originated in Scotland. I wanted to know what the backstory was between some of the characters, since I had discovered the show several seasons in, so I went a-googling away one Saturday and found some very helpful sites with episode summaries, which had links to other sites which had transcriptions of each episode, which had links to other sites which had all manner of homemade screen savers and wallpaper and avatars and ever-so-slightly pornographic fanfic about the main male characters...

And I was done! Obsession: cured.

Once you find yourself possibly in company with people who express themselves primarily through the repetition of exclamation points and bouncey smiley faces, and who use their God-given photoshop skillz to create video montages of fictional characters set to current pop tunes, once they have penned an ode or two in praise of their surpassing beauty and grace, and perhaps speculated on what they might do were they to run into them on a windswept hillside in Wales, well, you have a choice to make. And it is a pretty clear-cut choice at that.

I won't say that this cure has been complete yet, because I am in no way ready to erase my cache of this installment of Masterpiece Theatre off my DVR. But I am at least willing to rein it in a little. It is vital that one remain on the right side of certain lines in the sand, especially those lines that involve jumpy little emoticons and poorly written fanfic.

But the less said about those wallpaper montages the better. You know, some of them are really quite tastefully done, actually. From a purely aesthetic point of view.

08 February 2007

not safe for work

Apparently I am wallowing. Apparently I am rolling around shamelessly in my Jane Eyre/Gothic Romance obsession. Apparently this has not escaped anyone's notice.

Nobody else in my circle of friends and associates has seen Jane Eyre, and nobody thinks I am quite in my right mind about it. They humor me, I think, but no more.

And then I let it slip the other day at work that I consider Johnny Depp to be basically the Platonic ideal of attractive manhood, and a co-worker has taken it on herself to begin sending me "daily doses of hotness" in the form of images of that flawlessly gorgeous individual. I believe it is meant as a sort of antidote to my unseemly affection for a certain fictional character named Rochester.

I believe I have become the target of an intervention.

In this case, I think the cure is going to turn out to be WAY more fun than the disease.

The emails arrive at random times, so as to take me by surprise. And I have to say that there is something magical about being startled at irregular intervals by momentary flashes of insane hotness.

Truly, there are worse things than occasionally stopping in the middle of one's round of daily drudgery to look at this:


And to further speed my recovery, she has kindly loaned me her entire collection of VHS tapes of Depp movies. And yes, I most certainly do have a working VCR hooked up.

Granted, I will probably only watch the ones in which he is wearing period dress, especially if a cravat is involved:


God, do I have a thing for Edwardian cravats...

I have been instructed to undertake a Johnny-Depp-a-thon this weekend.

And yes, there are worse things. Oh my goodness yes. I'm not saying I won't do it.

But what will my darling Edward say?


OK OK you're right. No comparison. But that scene! with the blanket! And the burning four poster bed!

OK nevermind.

05 February 2007

the deserving poor

I have now THREE TIMES in ONE WEEK filled out an application for a grant or scholarship for school, only to be told at the end that I don't qualify because I am too old, or too normal, or too late because we've decided not to give out grants any more because "there is so much other money available to students these days."

That's a quote.

Are you serious?

It's all because I'm not a young and nubile college senior any more. They were LINING UP to give me money back then, I'll tell you. Now the only way they would be interested in me is if I had flunked out of college to have many babies and possibly marry an abusive spouse and perhaps have a very sad story. Then I could get a few bucks for school.

This is seriously annoying. It is also seriously undermining my ability to write earnest little paragraphs about what an awesome little person I am and how hard I will work for the community and give back and pay it forward and mentor the youth and blah blah blah when I keep getting slapped away like this.

Maybe I'll just start quoting my new hero, Jane Eyre, in my essays:

If you think that because I am poor, and plain, and obscure, and little, that I have no heart!

I have as much heart as you, and as much soul!

And then Rochester will propose and we will make out and eventually I will be rich, but only after almost dying from wandering the moors, disconsolate and alone.


Jane Eyre had a killer sob story, too.

I gotta stop being so goddamn well-adjusted and normal.

It is totally not paying off for me.

02 February 2007

closer to fine

One year when I was in college I spent spring break with a friend of mine in her mother's house in Lowell, Massachusetts. I think her mother was ill or something and so she had to be there and she was seriously bummed about this circumstance and so I offered to come up and keep her company.

At least, this is the way I remember it.

Lowell is a singularly odd place to choose to spend a vacation, especially one that is traditionally associated with fleeing to a warm place of lighthearted, non-stop fun. It is perhaps a gross understatement to say that Lowell is not a place known for lighthearted, non-stop fun.

It's an old mill town, of course, and so the downtown is less than thriving. I hear there are great things happening there now, though, what with old mills being renovated into artists' studios and the downtown getting its groove on after a fashion and all.

None of this had taken place yet in 1991.

I had spent the first few days of my vacation at my mother's house on Cape Cod. After a few days of the usual drama that exists between mother and daughter after the daughter has gone off to college and gotten all politicized and judgemental, I boarded the Plymouth-Brockton bus at the old bus station in Hyannis and rode it all the way up to South Station in Boston.

From there I took the commuter rail to Lowell. It took forever! but I was travelling alone, I was an adult on the road, I was free, I had my walkman and my Indigo Girls tapes and my Mount Holyoke hooded sweatshirt that would be my trusty travelling sweatshirt for a decade to come.

In 1991 that sweatshirt didn't have a single hole in it yet.

When I got to Lowell, my friend Linda picked me up in her Dad's car and we drove through the rainy, gray streets of her hometown and back to the house where her parents lived. It seemed like the kind of place that had been lived in by the same people for a very long time. It was drenched with the smell of cigarette smoke. It was the first time I had ever seen an overflowing ashtray in the bathroom of anybody's house.

Of course, I was a smoker by this time, too. But I was convinced that I was a very different kind of smoker than Linda's parents were. For one thing, they smoked cheap cigarettes. I preferred imported Dunhills, but settled for Camels most of the time. I would never smoke like they smoked, indiscriminately, and without any sense of decorum.

In Lowell, I smoked my special, terribly sophisticated cigarettes outside, on Linda's parents' stoop.

Linda took me to her old high school, a Catholic school. Having grown up on Protestant Cape Cod, I had never seen a classic 1950's era Catholic school before. I felt like an anthropologist. I tried to imagine going to high school here, in this classroom where Linda tracked down her old favorite teachers, tried to imagine sitting in a classroom with a crucifix on the wall.

I was more familiar with the prettier, more stylized crucifixes of the Episcopal Church. I wondered why they didn't use those crucifixes, instead of these depressing, blocky ones with sad Jesuses heavy with thorny crowns.

Those Catholics, I thought: so strangely literal.

Linda and I lived in the same dorm in college. It was the best dorm, the old one on the hill, behind the waterfall. We thought it was like a French chateau. I am sure that Linda was just as relieved and somewhat amazed as I was to find myself at Mount Holyoke, surrounded by oriental rugs and wood panelling and smart, fascinating women who were going to change the world. We had totally fallen through the rabbit hole.

I was poor too. And came from a freaky family. So I could totally relate.

One of my work study jobs was to drive the security van around the campus loop in the middle of the night, offering a safe ride to drowsy scholars in the quiet dark. I always took the latest shift possible, because I was a night owl, and sometimes Linda would join me with a cup of strong coffee and a boom box and her Indigo Girls tapes. She sang the high parts, I sang the low.

I could never remember: was I Emily? or Amy?

We drove through gray, crumbling old Lowell, singing in her Dad's car all week long. It was Spring Break, but it was still very much winter. It was someone else's hometown, high school, and parents, which was a relief to me.

But this was nothing like the relief of having found Linda, and a hundred more like her, a few hours to the west, in my French chateau by the waterfall.

We were both happy to be home.