Sunday, January 29, 2006

You could be swinging from a star

There are certain questions that come up in general getting-to-know-you and passing-the-time conversations often enough that I really ought to have an answer at the ready at all times. "What's your favorite movie?" for example. It's a simple enough question, and the answer is inconsequential, really, but still, I cannot answer it. Favorite movie? Just one? In what category? Using what criteria? I grew up with The Sound of Music; I remember seeing it when I was the same age as each of the Von Trapp children, and I recall seeing it in high school and finally "getting," for the first time, that whole Nazi subplot I was mostly oblivious to as a child. But is it my favorite movie? Maybe... Likewise, I saw Say Anything about 117 times between 1990 and 1996. I probably still have large portions of it memorized, and I still wonder about the possible significance or inside joke behind otherwise seemingly meaningless lines like "What are these?" "Bavarian Dutch style pretzels." But again, does that qualify it for "favorite" standing? I just can't commit.

On the other hand, there are questions I'd be more than happy to answer, but no one ever asks... things I've probably spent entirely too much time thinking about when I could have been doing something useful and productive, like reading to the blind or at least filing the stack of papers that's been growing beside my computer for the past four months.

For example, if asked, I could tell you immediately that, if forced to choose, I'd give up one of my legs before losing an arm. And if Tyler Durden* was planning to somehow try to save the world by blowing up every fast food chain empire except one, I'd fight to save Taco Bell above any and all others.

The question I've probably thought about most often, however, despite having never been asked it, is this: What superhero power would you find most useful, if you could pick any superhero power at all?

For me, this one is no contest. I don't really need to fly, and I'm lazy enough already without having Plastic Man's ability to reach for a snack in the kitchen without even leaving the couch. The ability to make myself invisible would probably just lead to crippling paranoia and distrust (I'd always be hiding out waiting to hear what people said about me behind my back). No, none of these are powers I really particularly need. For me, the power that would be truly most valuable would be the ability to stop time.

I can think numerous scenarios where stoppage of time would be entirely useful and beneficial. Given my clumsy nature, I could prevent all sorts of potential messes and breakage by simply stopping the clock if a jar of spaghetti sauce suddenly slips out of my hands. When I'm running late for work (again), I could just freeze time for a bit while I caught up with whatever task had delayed me (finding my shoes, packing my lunch, etc., etc., etc.).

Mostly, however, my desire to stop time has to do with only one thing: sleep. I have no idea what time I would need to retire at night in order to be well rested at 6:30 each morning, but clearly it's several hours earlier than my usual weeknight bed time. Every morning, the alarm goes off, and I hit the snooze for as many times as I can before I absolutely have to pry myself out from under my fluffy down comforter and get into the shower. If only, in lieu of the snooze button, I could simply touch my fingers together to stop the clock and get another three hours of uninterrupted sleep. I can only imagine the wonders that would do for my demeanor all day.

This isn't really a superhero power, of course. It's the power that a half-alien teenager named Evie had on the little-seen 1980s sitcom Out of this World.

I really thought I was one of only a very few people who ever saw and still remembers that sitcom, until a week or so ago, when I stumbled across this fun little game on Nabbalicious's site. It took several questions (including some amusing and obviously narrowing-down ones such as "Is your father a housekeeper?" and "Do your parents own the mercantile?"), but eventually the Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character Wizard asked me if I could stop time by touching my fingers together, and I was immediately certain he was onto me. He asked two or three more questions, just for good measure, and then correctly identified me as Evie. What surprised me, though, was that I was actually the 231st person to choose Evie in an attempt to stump the game. By contrast, only 161 people before me chose Skippy from Family Ties, who really, I thought, would have been a much more popular choice. That one took a little while, too. The game first had to establish that I wasn't friends with Mike Seaver and I don't hang out with a vampire slayer, but when it asked if I was in love with Mallory, I knew it had it again.

Incidentally, another sitcom I thought I was the only one to remember is Small Wonder, but oddly, I've stumbled across that one out of nowhere twice in the past week as well (here and here). Clearly my memory isn't as obscure as I thought.

I did, however, stump the "Guess the Dictator..." game with Jerry O'Connell's My Secret Identity. Not that that's anything to be too terribly proud of.

* This one, I mean, not this one. Just in case there was any confusion on that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This is better than a ribbon that says "Participant"

I may never be in the running for a Bloggie, but I'm not too terribly concerned about that. I feel, most days, like the poster girl for mediocrity in many aspects of life, and a bastion of mere adequateness has no need for such accolades.

Who needs the pressure, really, of thousands of fans and critics alternately telling me to "Write more!" or "Shut up!"? Not me. No sir.

Besides that, Darren's award categories are far more clever than any "official" ones I've seen. So forget about the Bloggies. I'm honored to be included among the recipients of the first annual "Look at Me. I'm So Important That I Won a Blog Award" Blog Awards. Thanks, Darren. I feel like I've just been invited to sit at the cool kids table.*

Very official-looking blog award

* The real cool kids, I mean--the smart, clever, interesting ones hanging out in some back corner of the cafeteria, totally unconcerned about what's going on at the table where everyone's in a jersey or a cheerleading skirt. That table was always more fun, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Self-tapping shoes?? I'm ever so pissed!

This is a fun toy in concept, if a bit imperfect in practice. And by "a bit," I mean wholly and entirely. On my first try, I tapped the song that was currently playing on the radio. Considering I was following along with the recording exactly, you'd think the Song Tapper would succeed. If you thought that, you'd be wrong, because instead of Bonnie Raitt's "I can't make you love me," it came back with these [entirely oh-so-similar] suggestions:

Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
London Calling (The Clash)
Back in Black (AC/DC)
Angel of Death (Slayer)
Tiny Dancer (Elton John)

I tried again with REM's Nightswimming and got everything from The Police (Every Little Thing She Does is Magic) to Smashing Pumpkins (1979) to Morrissey and Metallica (You're the One for Me, Fatty and Whiskey in a Jar). It even guessed the Super Mario theme song from Nintendo. Not an REM song in the list, though.

I'd be curious to know if anyone else has any better luck with this thing. And for giving you yet another way to distract yourself from working, you're welcome.

Oh, and that subject line? Clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. I do realize that. But when I think "tap," I think "tap dancing," and when I think "tap dancing," I think of that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa discovers that even Ralph Wiggum is more coordinated than she. So I couldn't help myself, really. You understand.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's a small world after all*

I grew up in a very small town, where a good portion of the population knew a good portion of the rest of the population. It was no Stars Hollow or Walnut Grove, but still it was near impossible to go anywhere in town with my mother without having to wait impatiently while she stopped to talk with some neighbor or church acquaintance or client of my father's. In a town that size, it wasn't at all uncommon to run into a teacher from my school while shopping at Food Mart, or to see the Food Mart cashier in the line at the bank or browsing at the video store. The dentist, the eye doctor, the photographer for the local paper--all of these people walked among us and were part of a common community. It was all very "Who are the people in your neighborhood?"--For me, they really were "the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street, the people that you meet each day."

When I moved to the Twin Cities, I quickly grew accustomed to the anonymity of a big city. I might, on occasion, recognize someone from my college at the bars downtown, but I never went in to Target or Rainbow Foods expecting to see anyone I knew. My friends, coworkers, and various acquaintances were scattered across Minneapolis, St. Paul, and its various surrounding suburbs, and with 27 different Target stores within the radius of my daily commute, the chances of any of us picking the same one at the same time have always been very slim.

It's not that I don't want some feeling of community and familiarity. I actually felt a little more at home here when I ran into my mechanic from the Amoco station at the mall one night and when I encountered a woman from my yoga class at a grocery store near my home. Still, for the most part, my life is neatly segmented into individual realms, and I'm very used to seeing little or no cross-over between them.

That's why it's so weird to work where I work. The city where my office is housed is, for all practical purposes, a suburb, but it's the kind of suburb that became a suburb only because the rest of the metropolitan area grew out to meet it. I am fairly confident that Rochester, Minnesota (nearly 90 miles away) will one day be considered a suburb of Minneapolis by the very same logic. Suburban sprawl is funny that way.

Unlike most suburbs, however, which have no sidewalks, far too many cul de sacs, and virtually no non-chain restaurants or retail establishments, the suburb where I work remains, largely, an independent, self-contained city in the old-fashioned, traditional sense. They let me in and out freely every day without going through Customs or showing a visitor's pass, but I get the very strong feeling that the majority of the people I encounter when I walk downtown or run an errand over lunch both live and work within the city limits. And even though those city limits house some 17,000 people, it's not at all uncommon for me to see the same person twice.

I go to Target, and three out of five times, it's the same small, friendly woman who rings up my purchases. At the post office, I know it's going to be either Mary or Joe who weighs my package or sells me my stamps. What I'm not used to, however, is the crossover when these people show up in places other than their appointed posts. It's like Mr. Rogers stopping in at Mr. McFeely's house instead of the other way around. It just wouldn't be right for Fred to walk in on Mr. McFeely just hanging out at home, having a beer and doing a crossword puzzle, wearing sweats or a cardigan, with his Speedy Delivery man hat nowhere in sight.

I should get to the point, I suppose. The truth is I really have no problem at all running into my postal worker at the grocery store or seeing my bank teller at a cafe. I'm really not that terrified of the "worlds colliding" phenomenon. My problem (like so many of the problems I feel the need to write about, apparently) is with the health club. There's a fine line, I think, between accepting the necessity of getting undressed and dressed in the company of total strangers and feeling comfortable in that same scenario when those people are not quite strangers. When we're all anonymous individuals who exist only within the walls of the club, I can go through the locker room motions without really much thought. But when the woman two lockers down is the lady who'll sell me my stamps tomorrow or the unnaturally tan girl who was behind me in line at the sandwich shop the other day, it feels a little too weird. I don't particularly want to see my bank teller naked, and I really don't feel comfortable with her seeing me in all my no-clothes glory either. Call me crazy; it just feels a little odd.

I remember back in college, one of my roommates came home one day very disturbed because an apparently rather ugly-footed professor had worn sandals to her lecture. My roommate for some reason couldn't help but focus on the feet, and she didn't feel at all comfortable with what she saw. "You should never see a professor's feet," she announced with authority and decision. Today I say that the same holds true for a postal worker's cellulite, I think.

* My sincerest apologies if the use of this subject line puts the Small World song in your head for the next 72 hours. Really.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tonight I'm going to party like it's 1982

Tonight was a very exciting night at my house. Tonight, I watched a first-run episode of Gilmore Girls on my own TV without the aid of my archaic rabbit ear antenna. Tonight, for the first time since my dorm and roommate days, I have a working cable connection in my home. I know!--Big news, right?

OK, I realize I may have oversold that a bit with the "very exciting night" business. But frankly, it's a Tuesday, and my expectations for a random Tuesday really aren't that high. And, quite possibly, I should get out more. But look! Clear picture! Rabbit ears disconnected! It's magical, really.

Yes I know that's neither Rory nor Lorelei, by the way. (My reception with the rabbit ears wasn't that bad.) In fact, it's some woman on a show I've never been able to watch before but I can now (if I really want to) because I get TBS! A lack of TBS has really never been all that important to me, but I expect it might come in handy some lazy Sunday afternoon when I decide that bonding with my couch is more important than cleaning my house or doing some other productive task I've been avoiding for any length of time. In the past, flipping through my measly twelve channels (all of which, by the way, feature nothing but sports and infomercials on said lazy Sunday afternoons) has often left me so frustrated by the choices that I'm forced to give up and actually do whatever task my couch time was meant to avoid. But now!--Now TBS, with its various recycled movies and syndicated sitcoms, might come to my rescue! I'm looking forward to my next Sunday morning hangover already! (OK, not really.)

In addition to TBS, I can also now enjoy a host of other benign and wholesome features, such as various community TV and public access stations, PAXNET (PAXNET? That's still around? Really?), and five (yes, five) shopping channels. Whee.

I also get CNN, two C-SPANs (apparently so I can ignore the legislative fun twice as often as with just one), and some sort of NASA educational feed. Sadly, however, I still won't find Jon Stewart in my living room. You can't get Jon Stewart for only twelve bucks a month.

I finally decided it was time to stop fighting the technological revolution when my relatively decent set of rabbit ears broke last week and I was forced to revert to the older ones I should have thrown away years ago. They're the kind of rabbit ears that really work only when you get up and walk towards them in a threatening manner, hands ready to adjust in whatever way necessary. As soon as I'd reach my hands toward them, the picture would be fine. When I'd turn to sit down again, the fuzziness returned. I'm not going to let two sticks of metal mess with me like that, so I finally decided that twelve bucks a month is a small price to pay for a reliable picture and a small slice of my sanity.

I could have stepped up to the "Standard" package and gotten a whole lot of other ways to kill time on a Sunday, but I'm frugal with my in-home service expenses (as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing this through a $4.95/month dial-up connection that every one of you reading this would laugh at). So for now, Basic Cable will suffice. Baby steps, you see. Baby steps. That's me.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Is it just me, or does anyone else think that the only possible explanation for Ryan Seacrest's ubiquity is a pact of some sort with the Prince of Darkness?

Seriously, where did he come from?* And who ever decided that a smarmy fame-whore would transition successfully to a charming and likeable TV personality?

These are the things I just don't understand.

* I know--from some radio station out in LA. But was he actually popular and well liked in that position?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not a good sport

I really dislike going to the health club at this time of year. The parking lot is crazy full, even at lunch time; the demand for the elliptical machines is too high; and, in the locker room, the crowd fighting for space at the mirror is reminiscent of the frantic four minutes of prep time after ninth grade phy. ed.

This happens every January, of course, and every January, I try to wait patiently as all of these unfamiliar faces who I haven't seen all year gradually give up on their lofty New Year's resolutions and return to their normal routine of paying for a health club membership that they never use.* I look forward to February, when things return to normal, and when I can go to the club over lunch and easily get rock star parking right outside the front door.

There is one benefit to the January influx of not-so-regular members, however, and that's that I'm no longer the least coordinated person in the cardio step classes. After attending these classes for two or three years, I can generally follow along and successfully transition myself from a right or left basic to a v-step to a turn-step to a set of alternating lunges or jumping jacks without any noticeable errors. But then the instructor will try to make things interesting by incorporating various spins and turns and making us face a different direction every three or four seconds. That's when she loses me and I realize I've gotten a little cocky with my overconfidence. In January, however, there's less of the complicated choreography. I can only assume it's a conscious effort on the instructor's part... she knows she has a lot of newbies in the group and she's trying not to discourage them. Still, despite the relatively simple footwork, there's always one woman who's entirely lost. She's either two moves behind or stumbling through a step or facing the entirely wrong direction. In January, thankfully, that woman is not me.

I've never been particularly coordinated or athletic. In grade school, I once jumped down the two steps between my parents' dining room and living room and slipped on a balloon one of my sisters had left on the floor. I tore a ligament in my ankle and was in a cast for a month. That ridiculously preventable injury about sums up my athletic prowess, I feel.

Sometimes, in the step classes at the health club, I like to look around at the other participants and guess which ones were cheerleaders, which ones were "real athletes," and which ones were like me--kids who hated phy. ed. because it brought down their GPA and who didn't even like to dance because they felt that everyone was staring at them.

I actually was a cheerleader for one brief season, but I maintain that it doesn't count because 1) it was in eighth grade and 2) with only five girls in my eighth grade class, we pretty much either all had to be cheerleaders or our team had no squad.

When I got to high school, I joined the freshman volleyball team and the track team, for no other reason than my older sister had done so and I thought it was what I was supposed to do to be involved or "normal" or find a place in that school. When I realized I was the only one on the volleyball team who couldn't get the ball over the net serving overhand, however, and when I humiliated myself in the triple jump by not even making it to the sandpit, I decided there were other ways for me to be involved. My athletic career ended there.

My older sister had a decidedly different high school experience. Not only was she entirely more successful on the volleyball and track teams, but as a freshman, she also tried out for and got a spot on the pom-pom squad, a squad otherwise dominated by exclusively juniors and seniors. She remained on the squad for four years, and put in some time as a football cheerleader one year as well.

I have a theory about this discrepancy in abilities between my sister and I. The way I see it, my parents had a finite amount of "stuff" to give to each of their children. My older sister got the majority of the coordination and athletic ability, and I got about two-thirds of the disproportionately small amount that was left after that. Of course, by the time my little sister came along, there was even less left in the bag. As a result, that poor girl has a hard time walking into a room without cutting the doorway too close and ramming her shoulder,** so really, it could be worse for me.

I've always known I wasn't athletic, and it never particularly bothered me. Even back in first grade, when kids are still supposed to think they can do anything, when no one's been labeled yet as a good or bad athlete, musician, artist, or mathematician... even then, I knew sports were not for me. Each week, Sister Dolores would compile teams for kickball, and each week, I quietly abstained, even if every other kid in my class was participating, leaving me to play by myself on the swingset every recess that week. One week, during kickball signup, I actually did raise my hand and agree to play. I figured I should give it a try just once before I wrote it off completely. I made it through the week, but felt awkward the whole time. The following week, I was back on the swingset.

This lack of ability and interest in athletics has followed me throughout my life. In grade school, there was the annual embarrassment of the Presidential Physical Fitness test, where I struggled with the flexed arm hang and fought the two next-slowest girls in my class in a battle not to take dead-last in the 50-yard dash (or later, in the more grueling eighth-grade test, the mile jog).

It didn't get any better in high school, as I can attribute the majority of my most mortifying adolescent moments to high school phy. ed. There was, for example, the time when someone made the mistake of passing me the ball in soccer, and I kicked it halfway down the field in the wrong direction, wondering how I could have such superior ball control that no one on the opposing team was stopping me. And then there was the time when I beamed a classmate in the head with a softball, which really could have been just as much his fault for not catching it as it was my fault for poor aim (regardless, I used this story as an excuse every time my friend Dale begged me to be the one girl they were missing on his intramural softball team in college). My favorite, however, was the time in 11th grade phy. ed. when Mr. Linnabary (a large, lumbering man who, in my opinion, had no business forcing us into any physical activity when he looked incapable of such activity himself) paired me up for doubles tennis with a guy named Tim, who I happened to be enamored with at the time. Knowing I was no athlete, Tim looked my way and said, "I've got this. You can just hang out back there." I was fine with this plan until Linnabary caught on and decided to announce his disapproval to the entire class. From two courts away, everyone heard him shout, "Hey [lastname]! You gonna play?" Needless to say, Tim and I never had our magical moment together that I felt I so rightly deserved.

Perhaps the only moments of minimal glory in my very sporadic attempts at athletic greatness came in sixth and seventh grades, when my dad entered me in the Knights of Columbus freethrow contest. I actually won a trophy BOTH YEARS, but only because one year I was the only girl participating in my age group and the other year I beat my neighbor, Julie, one-zero... in overtime.

Although the wounds from my high school embarrassment are mostly scarred over by now, I'm still entirely averse to team sports of virtually any kind. Even when friends assure me that the informal volleyball match or the pickup game of basketball is "just for fun," it almost always turns into a demeaning experience for me. I don't even know the actual rules for basketball--a fact so amusing to my friends that they continue to bring it up, even four years after that doomed game during a camping trip on Madeline Island. And the last time I played a simple game of "toss the football around," it ended in a Marcia Brady "Oh my nose!" moment for me, so really I don't see why everyone can't just accept that I'm not a team player and leave me alone about it already.

The step aerobics, however, I can handle. At least in January, I can.

* I'm a cynic, I know. Truth be told, the only thing that forces me to go regularly and not fall into that same trap is the fact that my company subsidizes the membership as long as I go eight times a month. It's an excellent motivator.

** OK, I admit it; I do this too. But not nearly as often as that kid does.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Take me to TV Land

A while ago, a relatively new friend became a more consistent member of the threesome I most often run with, and I think the friend who's been in "best friend" position the past few years began to feel a bit jealous. I think she was afraid she'd be displaced if someone new moved into the triangle. This is ridiculous, of course. Not only was no one being replaced, but the new friend was actually filling a slot we'd had vacant for a while. You see, we needed a fourth.

Bridget Jones may have needed just Jude and Shazzer, but maybe if she'd had a fourth, she wouldn't have been quite so scattered. So many of the great (and even not-so-great) "girls clubs" are foursomes: when I was a kid, there was Blair, Natalie, Tootie, and Jo... then Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia... Julia, Suzanne, Mary Jo, and Charlene... More recently, of course, it was Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha... Even Mary Richards didn't spend all her time with just Rhoda; she had Phyllis and Georgette to round out the mix as well.

Maybe I'm placing too much emphasis on fictional lives here. It wouldn't be the first time I've blurred the line between television and reality. I remember one night several years ago, when my then-roommate's boyfriend was visiting, and he listened quietly while we talked about something that was happening between a group of people whose names weren't familiar to him. Maybe he just wasn't too quick, or maybe we were talking with a bit too much interest and animation about what were not real people... All I know is the look on his face when he realized that Pacey and Jen were people on TV and not actual humans in our circle of influence was alternately embarrassing and hilarious for us.

Nevertheless, I've been thinking a lot recently about the neighborhood of make-believe where my television friends live, and I've come to a simple conclusion. I want to live in TV Land.

I don't mean the Dick Van Dyke and Pleasantville TV Land, where everyone is neatly pressed and no problem is too complicated for dad to solve with a few sage words and a glass of cold milk, nor do I mean the TV Land I grew up with, where every family was loving and tight-knit, and every Huxtable and Keaton girl had a vast and stylish wardrobe and two nice boys vying for her attention. I mean the modern TV Land--the one I see today.

Supposedly art imitates life, so if you can call TV "art" (it's a stretch sometimes, I know), then presumably the world we see on TV is just a more clever, more entertaining, better dressed version of our own. It's strange, though, how the way that idealized world is portrayed changes over time. Yes, I know there's currently no shortage of traditional sitcoms featuring families and kids in various incarnations of the American nuclear family, but the trend for most of the shows popular in my demographic in recent years is the "friends as family" convention. That's the TV Land I can get behind--the one I want to be the imitation of life around me.

I watch Sex & the City and don't feel so alone as a single 31-year old woman. I can harbor the illusion that there are hundreds of us all around me. I'm not a cliche; I'm an archetype. I watch reruns of Seinfeld and suddenly it's OK to begrudge driving 30 miles on a perfectly good Saturday in order to "see the baby." I watch Will & Grace and feel it's not only forgivable but entirely the norm to give in to laziness and shallow interests, to have a better grasp on the names of celebrity couples' new babies* than the name of my City Council representative.** Perhaps most important, I watch old episodes of Friends and I try to believe that even as my friends get married and have babies, they'll still live right next door and I'll still see them every day.

I remember when Nick at Nite first advertised the spin-off station, TV Land... The ads said that if the new network wasn't on your channel lineup, you should simply call your cable provider and say, "Take me to TV Land!"

Oh, if only it were that simple.

* Violet and Matilda--we all knew that, right?

** This is actually a bad example, as I do know the name of my City Council representative, but you know what I mean.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

And now, a pause for station identification

I just wanted to say hello and welcome to everyone who's been stopping by from Look at Me, Jurgen Nation, and Poppy Cedes lately. And thanks, Darren, Stacy, and the woman I will refer to only as Poppy [your secret identity is safe with me!] for the link publicity. Someday I will actually get around to creating a links list in my sidebar, and I assure you there will be reciprocity when that finally occurs.

My posting gets rather sporadic sometimes, but if you're new here, go ahead and check out the archives. There might be some amusing things there, and if you haven't been here before, it's all new to you, right? My friend Dale (who will maybe one day actually step forth from his lurking position and post a comment or two) liked this one in particular. My friend Jamie once told someone at a party that my blog is "mostly about pineapples," so I guess this and this are the entries she finds most memorable. I got a few amusing emails in response to the one where I held my own private traffic school, so you might want to check that one out if you missed it as well.

If you're up for a longer story, perhaps you'd like to read about raising little heathens or why I hate Bret Easton Ellis, or the Benny Hill magic hour at Summerfest, or why my house might be haunted.

If, on the other hand, you don't have the time for the rambling and would rather read the short entries about random things I find amusing throughout the day, try the one about the Fra-GEE-lay crate, or the one listing my co-workers' abuses of the office refrigerator, or various thoughts on my birthday cards. You might also like to read about my fascination with squirrels, my attempt to encourage good taste among four-year-olds in video stores, my inability to use a microwave or to successfully respond in basic social interactions, or my interest in modern Somalian pirates.

Again, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you back here soon.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What a difference two letters makes

Tonight the only things on my mind are things that are more suited to a private and personal journal than to one that all of the Internet can read (drama of my own capped off by drama in close friends' lives as well), so I'm going to pretend the holidays aren't quite over yet and tell one more story about Christmas with my family.

As I've mentioned several times, I come from a set of very Catholic parents, so obviously church on Christmas Eve was a given. We used to go to the earlier mass at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. and then open our presents and watch A Christmas Story or The Bells of St. Mary's or White Christmas (or some other selection from my father's massive video collection) when we got home. In recent years, for some reason, we've switched to the midnight mass, which is actually the 10:00 p.m. mass, because apparently Catholics can't stay up so late anymore. It's all good and fine; I don't really want to be at church until bar close time anyway*; I just think it's odd that we all still call it midnight mass (or "the midnight mass at 10:00"). Or is it only in my house where they still call it that?

Anyway, the plus and the minus of midnight (or 10:00 p.m.) mass is that the bottle of wine that my dad might otherwise wait until after church to bring out instead came out around 8:00. This gave us just enough time for three of the five of us to get a nice little wine buzz going right before we left ridiculously early for the church.

I realize that Christmas Eve is the Superbowl of Catholic masses and an early start ensures we won't be standing behind the cheap seats for the full hour and twenty minute mass. But my parents' church is a five-minute drive from their house. I really thought it was being a bit overcautious to leave at 8:55.

The extra early departure was my mother's idea, of course. My sister relayed the plan to me earlier in the evening. "There's a cantina," she said. "Before the mass. At 9:20. Mom wants to be there for that."

Now, I realize that the Catholic church has been struggling to retain members in recent years. Perhaps they're making some radical moves as a result to try to draw more people in. But a cantina? Somehow I doubted that. Even on Christmas Eve, when the priest is trying to reel in all the once-a-yearers. He might swing that bucket of incense around a few extra times to try to get everyone a little bit loopy, but I really didn't think he'd start serving up tropical drinks.

Since this is the sister who once mocked me for using the word "circa" (because apparently it was an obscure and lofty word that no "normal" person would know), I figured she might have misquoted my mother just a bit. I pressed for more details.

"A cantina? At the church? Before the mass?"

"Yeah, it's something with the choir."

By now my mother had entered the room, and she quickly cleared things up. "I said a cantata! Not a cantina!"

This made a whole lot more sense, obviously. It was also a lot less fun. And with our wine buzz in us, the whole idea was entirely too hilarious to just let go and be all serious and reverential as the choir started its show. Every usher walking about, every bit of church paraphernalia carried across the sacristy in pre-mass preparation, all of it prompted a "Is he bringing the drinks?!" comment of sorts. Luckily, the sleepy effects of wine mellowed us a bit by the time the service started, so we weren't entirely sacrilegious when the priest began his walk up the aisle. I'm still pretty sure that the wine will be off-limits before church next Christmas, however. My mom will likely see to that.

* Not that we've ever gone straight from church to a bar, so it's not like I'm worried about missing last call; it's simply a point of reference about the time.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Books I've read in 2006

* = Loved it
^ = Hated it

  1. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel *
  2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman ^
  3. The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank
  4. The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
  5. Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding
  6. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  7. Welcome to My Planet by Shannon Olson ** (I believe this was my third read of this one; I like it that much)
  8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  9. Popco by Scarlett Thomas
  10. Are Men Necessary? by Maureen Dowd (on audio book)
  11. The May Queen: Women on Life, Love, Work, and Pulling It All Together in Your 30s edited by Andrea N. Richesin
  12. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  13. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  14. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri *
  15. The Year of Yes by Maria Dahvana Headley
  16. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  17. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

You say you want a resolution

I've never been much for making New Years resolutions--particularly public ones that might compel those around me to follow up and check my progress. Sure, I could stand to be a better person in various ways, and there are plenty of things I could work on in an effort to achieve that goal. I could smile more. I could be more patient. I could make some effort to let things go and to move on (in both my personal and professional life). I could stop eating like a 17-year-old boy. I could do charity work.

All of these things would be good and noble goals. They're also not my style. Instead, I choose to recognize that who I am at this point in my life is pretty much who I'm going to be. Really there's no sense fighting 31 years of habit and temperament. I'm "done" at this point; I'm fully cooked. I prefer to accept that and be at peace with myself mostly as I am.

So in that spirit, I begin this year not with a list of things I'm aiming to give up, stop doing, or try to do better. No, instead I'm compiling my anti-resolutions--a list of things I'm going to keep right on doing in the coming year just as I've been doing them in previous years. You can't stop me; don't even try. With my anti-resolve, I intend to continue...
  • Staying in bed as late as I feel like it on every Saturday and Sunday when I'm able to. It is not "wasting half the day" to spend precious daylight hours in bed if that's what I genuinely want to do with those hours.

  • Getting a good and sloppy drunk on at least a few times a year.

  • Eating very bad for me things in inappropriate quantities (e.g., the better part of a tube of raw cookie dough; half a Freschetta pizza; a Big Mac extra value meal), so long as it's not an overly frequent occurrence and so long as my jeans still fit.

  • Making fun of people who truly deserve it.

  • Cursing at people in traffic.

  • Cursing in general.

  • Choosing to spend time with my friends or just hang out by myself rather than feeling I should "get out there" and go on a date with someone I'm really not even remotely excited about.

  • Frequently forgoing productive tasks such as mopping the kitchen floor in favor of getting sucked into a bad TV movie or some other lazy procrastinator's distraction.

  • Napping when the urge strikes.
I think I'll get going on that last one right now, actually. I reserve the right to add to this list as need be, and I encourage everyone else to grant themselves permission to do the same.

Happy New Year!