Thursday, April 28, 2005

It says "Fra-GEE-lay"

Remember in A Christmas Story, when Ralphie's old man wins the "major award" that turns out to be a leg lamp, and it comes to the house in a giant wooden crate marked "Fragile" (which he thinks is a French word, pronounced "Fra-GEE-lay")? Well, there's a crate just like that in the gravel lot behind our office right now. I have no idea what's in it. This should not surprise me, however. In that same lot at the moment (a gravel lot that serves as the redneck backyard for the house adjacent to our building) are the following items:

  • A plastic garbage can with a domed top (broken)
  • A black metal futon frame
  • Approximately 8 plate glass windows, stacked against...
  • A rusty old (presumably non-functioning) vehicle with the approximate shape and vintage as the car I think the PT Cruiser was designed to emulate
  • Two other vehicles that might possibly still run, one circa 1970s and one early 1990s
  • Various bits of scrap metal
  • An aluminum ladder
  • Several pieces of lumber
  • A stack of 5-gallon plastic buckets (empty)

No, I do not work in rural Alabama. Just in case you were wondering.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Spider-Man rides the short bus

Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who carries a camera everywhere, because sometimes I see something that's just so... random... curious... amusing... bizarre... And I want to share it so others can be amused and curious, too, but a photo would be a far more effective and succinct way to do so than any words I could attempt might.

For example, when you've got a photo like this (and a clever caption to accompany it), do you really even need to say anything else? Of course not.

Unfortunately, as I am not so well prepared for instantly documenting the ridiculous in daily life, my description of what I saw yesterday as I returned to work from a lunch-time trip to Target will have to suffice.

I pulled up at a stop sign behind one of those half-a-school-buses that typically transport special needs kids and other students with an out-of-the-ordinary schedule or route. (Side note: I was never even aware of the "short bus" jokes until about six years ago, when someone at work made some crack to insult a not-too-bright co-worker by saying she "rode the short bus" to school. In my very small hometown, I rode the short bus during my first year of school simply because it made no sense to send a full-sized bus to transport 10 kids at the end of our half-day kindergarten class. So yeah, I "rode the short bus." Shut up; I'm not ashamed.)

Anyway, so I pulled up behind the short bus and, through the dusty and mud-spattered emergency door window, saw one thing that stood out among the usual dangling legs and backs of heads of the rest of the young bus occupants. Splayed into the aisle was an adult-sized [presumably male] leg arrayed in the unmistakably recognizable blue and red spandex tights of a Spider-Man unitard.

Since I'm not the type of person who can see an adult male leg wearing Spider-Man tights on a bus in the suburbs in the middle of the day and NOT wonder what the story is, all sorts of possibilities began traipsing through my mind. As it's mid-April, a costume party was not a likely explanation... Was Spider-Man there to protect the other riders from the rude and insensitive children who might yell their "short bus" taunts as the bus occupants reached their stop? Was he just catching a ride to expedite his arrival at some location where his services were needed? (I imagine that the lack of any tall buildings in the area makes his usual leaping and web-throwing mode of travel significantly more difficult and overt.) Did a kid on the bus win some type of "spend the day with Spidey" contest and brought him to school for show and tell? Was it simply just laundry day, and the wearer of the tights had nothing else to put on? Was he maybe wearing only the tights, and the rest of the obviously eccentric guy's outfit was some odd juxtaposition of tuxedo shirt, cargo shorts, and Viking helmet?

These are the things I was left contemplating as I returned to work for a stimulating afternoon of technical editing. I'm not saying a report on public safety radio interoperability can't be interesting in its own way, but can you blame me if my mind wanders when I have questions like these left unanswered?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Maybe someday lip balm and clumsiness will save my life, too

Many a friend has mocked me over the years for my lip balm addiction, and my reply has always been, "Until there's a lip balm ward at Hazelden, I'm not too worried about it." But lo--it never occurred to me that lip balm could save one's life.

In addition to being a lip balm addict, I'm also rather clumsy--dropping things and running into walls and furniture and such far more frequently than an able-bodied adult should. Somehow it's nice to know that being a spaz can be beneficial at certain opportune times.

OK, so the odds of my needing to dodge a stray bullet in any of the neighborhoods I frequent are pretty slim (and I'm not saying I want to dodge one just to prove a point or anything), but still...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Yes, it's spring. Now put some clothes on.

In the Midwest, there's a well-known phenomenon that I will never understand. Upon the first signs of spring (by which I mean the first day that the sun shines without a biting wind and the temperature stays above 52 degrees for all daylight hours), people in the Midwest put on shorts. They wear flippy sandals and strappy tanks. They eschew not just jackets, but even lightweight, springy cardigans. And I stare at them, confused, thinking, "Honey, it's April."

Don't get me wrong. I am fully familiar with the instant pick-me-up that natural light and warmth provides after months of rushing from heated building to heated building before your notrils freeze shut. And I know that there are days in late winter when I stare into my closet and realize I'd rather wear my pajamas to work than put on one of the same eight sweaters I've had in rotation the past six months. Pulling out the summer clothes can inject a welcome dose of variety that's almost as exciting as a brand-new wardrobe.

But still. It's April. And early April in Minnesota is no time for halter tops and capris.

Here's what I don't understand. From late October to March, we're cold. All the time. Sure, some days are more temperate than others and you can be entirely comfortable provided you're wearing a proper coat and a cozy scarf. But when night falls and I'm outside, my teeth are almost always chattering. No amount of extra clothing can remedy it. On the worst days of summer, it's the opposite problem. At a crowded outdoor event on a bright and humid day, even the lightest, airiest outfit can't keep you cool.

That is the beauty of spring in Minnesota. For a brief window of time, you can wear 3/4-sleeved shirts and jeans and feel you're surrounded by a protective bubble of temperature-controlled comfort. You're not too hot; you're not too cold. You start to remember why you live here in the first place. But go and rush things--break out the full-on summer stuff before it's time--and it's back to the teeth chattering again. Put on a strappy tank in April and suddenly you're just as cold as you were six weeks ago in your winter coat. I don't get it.

So yes, I'm enjoying the lovely spring sunshine and the return of green to the trees and grass. Yes I'll happily put away my gloves and scarf and expose the skin below my neck to daylight again. But I'm bringing a sweater, because it's just good sense.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Random thoughts during my yoga class

I wonder, in any given yoga class in the Twin Cities, what percentage of participants have on at least one item of Mossimo active wear?

I wonder if the number is just as high in other parts of the country, or if the fact that Target is headquartered here and there's a Target store every 3.2 miles along any road makes our Target habit much more pronounced than it is in other markets.

I wonder whatever happened to the guy we called "Garth Barks" (because of a stupid novelty t-shirt he wore nearly every week, featuring a cartoon dog in a cowboy hat with the caption--you guessed it--Garth Barks). I don't miss him; I'm just curious.

I wonder why this is so damn much harder than it looks, and if I'll ever be able to do it anywhere close to correctly with anything close to grace and balance.

I wonder if the guy across from me knows he looks like Gollum when he's upside down, blood rushing to his head, face winced in the effort to maintain a good sirsasana.

I wonder if I look just as weird from that same angle.

Monday, April 04, 2005

As if I'm not already the poster girl for laziness and mediocrity

I just Googled the word on my next-door neighbor's personalized license plate, which I [correctly] guessed was likely the name of the company he owns (or maybe "owned"; he told me last summer he was "retiring"--this from a man who I guessed was no more than a couple years older than I am). I knew he was some type of techno-geek; he told me he'd invented the technology for self-destructing DVDs. I didn't know if he'd found a buyer for said technology and therefore whether the idea had paid off in any significant monetary sense, though the fact that he was able to "retire" (even temporarily) at age 30-ish seemed to imply a financial security to which I certainly can't relate.

So I Googled him (or rather, his license plate), and found him listed as one of's "10 under 30" for 2001. He was 25 at the time. Twenty-five years old, and included as one of ten people throughout the U.S. highlighted and lauded for their ambitious and successful entrepreneurial efforts. It was a list of 10 young millionaires across the country. Yes, millionaires. Yes, 25. That was four years ago, which means that not only is he likely very financially secure, as I suspected, but he's also not even yet 30. I assumed he was a couple years old than I; instead, I'm two years old than he.

As if I need to feel like more of a lazy scrub.

What happened to me? I used to have that ambitious, overachiever streak (or, I thought I did...). Maybe I peaked too early and used it all up before I even graduated from college. Don't most people with great grades and a full list of extracurricular activities and involvements take that same energy and use it towards something meaningful and worthwhile when it really matters, in their “real life” in the grown-up world? When did I lose the drive to achieve? Maybe I never had it, since the things that were driving me, apparently (GPA, Dean’s lists, parental approval, etc.), are not really very meaningful or important in the grand scheme of things.

Am I the lazy drifter I feel I am, or is my total mediocrity actually the norm? Maybe I'm just looking for excuses, but I suspect it is, at least to some degree, the latter. We watch "Will & Grace" and see Grace admitting that television is the most meaningful thing in her life, and we laugh because it's relatable (right? or am I laughing because it's relatable, and the rest of you are laughing because it's pathetic?). We can't all be millionaires; we can't all save the world. Still, perhaps I should make some attempt at seeking some sort of purpose or setting some type of goals. Yeah, I'll get right on that. In just a little while. "The Simpsons" is on now.