Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Leaving... on a Jet Plane

I'm heading out of here tomorrow for a much-anticipated island getaway. The last time I took any sort of "real" vacation was my trip to Cozumel three years ago. [I do not consider a long weekend at a cabin two hours from home a "real" vacation, nor do I look back on my trip to Pittsburgh for a wedding as any sort of exciting tropical holiday (no offense to the bride or groom, of course).] So a week in Jamaica seems well overdue.

I doubt I'll be hunting down an Internet cafe to check in while I'm gone, so you likely won't be hearing from me for a while. (You'll come back, though, won't you? Please?) Oh, and if anyone's reading this who doesn't know me but has somehow figured out precisely where I live, please don't rob my house while I'm gone. Really; I have hardly anything worth stealing anyway. Trust me. Do you think a house that hasn't even splurged for standard cable is the go-to place for shiny, expensive toys? I think not.

Anyway, have a great week. I'll be back when I've got sufficient rum in my system and a sufficient tan on my pasty-whiteness.

Assault with a dairy weapon

The run-in with my nutcase neighbor last week reminded me of another encounter my friend Lisa and I had about a year ago in Lisa's neighborhood on the other end of the city. We'd been out to dinner, and decided to go back to Lisa's house and enjoy some frozen Colorado Bulldogs. I realized when I mentioned these in my "Four Things" post that it's likely a very regional reference and I don't have any idea how far a familiarity with this drink extends. Any bar in the Twin Cities will make a Bulldog without question, but even in some parts of Wisconsin, you can easily stump a bartender by asking for one.

For anyone who's not aware, a Colorado Bulldog is basically a White Russian plus Coke, served in a highball glass instead of an old fashioned. It's a froofy and girly drink that may be as shameful for a self-respecting adult over the age of 24 to order as an Alabama Slammer or a Sex on the Beach, but it's sweet and it's tasty and it makes a particularly good after-dinner, in-lieu-of-dessert sort of drink.

When Lisa and I were in Mexico a few years ago, we noticed a drink called "Buda Colorado" on the plaque of specialties listed in our hotel bar, and when we inquired about it, we found it was essentially a Colorado Bulldog blended with ice to make a frothy frozen drink. I can't imagine the Colorado Bulldog has roots in Mexico; I have to assume that the influx of Midwestern tourists to Cozumel had something to do with the drink's inclusion on that menu. Regardless, we immediately took to this new variation on the drink, and we like to make them on occasion on our own.

But I digress. Back to that night. We decided to make some frozen Bulldogs, but Lisa didn't have any ice or cream at home. So we detoured to a Holiday station to pick up those supplies. We went in, bought the bag of ice and carton of cream, and headed back for the car. I walked toward the passenger side and stood waiting for Lisa to unlock the door. As Lisa opened her door and started lowering herself into the driver's seat, a short, portly, angry-looking woman began walking towards her. I thought perhaps she was going to inquire about the time, or maybe ask for some money. Instead, she said nothing. She just continued towards Lisa, until she was eventually two inches away and definitely violating socially accepted personal space boundaries.

The woman glared at Lisa fiercely, but said nothing. So Lisa got into the car, hoping to close the door and quickly retreat. The woman stood in her way, preventing her from closing it. Eventually, terrified and confused, Lisa scooted herself across the front seat, trying to escape. Since she hadn't yet unlocked the door, I couldn't open the passenger side and pull her out. I think the most helpful thing I contributed during the whole encounter was a freaked out stream of confused obscenities. (I believe my exact words were, "What the fuck?! What the fuck?! What the fuck?!")

Lisa continued clawing at the passenger side window, looking at me helplessly and clearly wondering why I wasn't opening the door. Eventually the angry mute leaned forward, grabbed the bag of ice from Lisa's hands, and chucked it towards her face. It grazed Lisa's cheek and slid onto the floor of the car. She then grabbed the creamer carton and beamed that at Lisa's head as well. Finally, apparently satisfied that she'd sufficiently tortured us, the woman simply turned and walked away.

Lisa quickly moved back to the driver's seat, opened the door to let me in, and tore out of the parking lot. I checked her forehead for a creamer carton dent, but found nothing more than a small pink abrasion, so I figured she'd recover successfully with no complications.

Since the most dangerous weapon involved was a dairy product, I thought we should just consider ourselves lucky, go home, and let a little Kahlua calm our nerves. Lisa was a bit more shaken, though, and decided to call the police.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" I asked.

"I just got attacked!" she replied.

"Yes," I said, "but it was with a carton of creamer and a bag of ice. And we have no idea where that woman went. What do you think the police are going to do?"

She wanted to call, however, and I understood her feeling violated, so I said OK.

The police showed up about 20 minutes later, listened to our story, and asked us a long series of questions. To their credit, they didn't laugh once. I'm not sure I could have been so disciplined, were I in their position.

Based on our description, the police felt fairly confident they knew who the creamer-pelter was. Like the lunatic across the alley from me, this woman has apparently had her share of visits from the men in blue as well. I'm not sure if my neighbor has ever been institutionalized, but apparently this woman has--more than once--but has been deemed not dangerous enough to keep tabs on more closely. Maybe if she were throwing full half-gallon cartons of dairy products it would be a different story, but clearly pint-size weapons are just a minor offense.

I tell this story not because I think it's fun or appropriate to laugh at mental illness (although I do think being able to find amusement in it later is the only appropriate response after being terrorized in such a ludicrous manner). My real focus when I think back on this story, though, is how lucky I feel that this is the worst I've experienced of urban life. Minneapolis isn't exactly plagued by violent crime, but I've still heard plenty of stories from people whose cars have been broken into or who've been mugged outside their front door, and the local news stations still find a shooting to talk about nearly every day. Knowing this, if the worst I can say is that I watched as my best friend was assaulted with a bag of ice by a small angry woman, or that I was startled one night by a crazy lady concerned about my garbage, then I think I'm doing OK.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

And the search goes on...

A couple weeks ago, I brought up the idea of post-date performance reviews. I still think this is a fine concept, but after an evening with Candidate #4 in my new Great Date Experiment, I have another suggestion as well: letters of recommendation.

I realize that letters of recommendation are frequently utter bullshit, and the validity or veracity of the content within can be questionable at best. But when the "read" on someone is tough, when it's hard to tell if the odd quirks you're picking up are just nerves or deeply imbedded personality flaws, it would be helpful to get a take on it from a friend or an ex who's already done the groundwork to find out.

Yes, yes, I know it is wrong and shallow to let someone else's opinion determine my own. If I were a more warm and patient person, I'd never think of such a thing. But frankly, I don't have time for that, when I've got a life to live and a blog to ignore and a queue of boyfriend candidates to audition. Plus, there's my own safety to consider. That twitchiness I'm observing could be just awkward social skills that will smooth out over time, or it could be a sign that he's thinking of the best way to get me back to his lair where he'll fatten me up and make me rub lotion on myself and eventually turn me into part of a real-woman suit. When a guy outright says, "I guess I'm kinda creepy," I want to think he's just trying to be funny, but is it really a risk I should take?

Incidentally, I ran into Date Experiment Candidate #1* at the restaurant while waiting for Candidate #4. Clearly Minneapolis is a much smaller town than I realized. And yes, not too far into the date with #4, it did occur to me to go back and look for #1. I hope he had a more comfortable night than I did.

* Not the NRA member; there was actually a candidate before him who was far too normal and nice to inspire an entry of any sort, so you didn't hear about him at all.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Despite occasional evidence to the contrary, I'd still say I'm not really all about the memes, but I noticed the other day that Poppy tagged me for this one, and since I've never been tagged before, I feel compelled to comply. So here we go. Last week it was fours; this week it's fives; either way, it's random information you may or may not have any interest in learning about me. Enjoy.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Realizing I'd had enough of drunk 19 year olds vomiting in the community shower, and deciding therefore that it was time to say goodbye to life as a Resident Assistant and move off campus for my final year of school.

What were you doing a year ago?
Turning down a very nice guy who I just wasn't into... something I felt significantly less bad about when he plagiarized the "Dear John" e-mail I sent him and used it to turn down a friend of mine a few months later. This is an excellent story that I sooooo want to tell, but out of a modicum of respect for the people involved, I'll refrain from posting it publicly on the Internet.
(Update: Scratch that. Apparently I decided it was OK to write about this after all.)

Five snacks you enjoy
1. Seven-Layer Burritos from Taco Bell
2. Corn dogs (I know hot dogs are disgusting, but Mmmmm... corn dogs)
3. Kettle corn
4. Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked frozen yogurt
5. Sweet & Salty Honey Nut Chex Mix

Five songs to which you know all the words
1. Galileo, by Indigo Girls (and Closer to Fine, and Least Complicated, and half the rest of their catalog)
2. Open Window, by Sarah Harmer
3. Women & Men, by They Might Be Giants
4. No One is to Blame, by Howard Jones (shut up; it's a great song)
5. The theme from Hill Street Blues (heh heh)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire
1. Buy a fancy overpriced condo in a great neighborhood
2. Quit my job without worrying about having another one lined up
3. Book small-venue concerts with my favorite artists, and pre-screen all attendees*
4. Offer to pay the tuition if my little sister would go back to school
5. Donate to various worthy causes and candidates

* I would still let other people attend, to recoup costs of the event, but my friends and I would be guaranteed front-row positioning, and the pre-screening would ensure no one ever has to put up with "That Girl"--the girl who's in front of or behind me at every single show, either having loud conversations with her friend, or flailing her arms about as though there are no personal space issues at play, or shoving herself into my back or arm... You know That Girl. She's not welcome at my shows.

Five bad habits
1. Laziness
2. Procrastination
3. The tendency to pile crap up instead of putting it in its proper place (this is probably covered by #1 & 2, actually...)
4. & 5. A couple other things I don't feel like admitting publicly

Five things you enjoy doing
1. Reading
2. Watching movies
3. Walking
4. Traveling
5. Playing board games

Five things you will never wear again
1. Poufy bangs
2. A bandana as a necklace
3. Culottes (or gauchos, or whatever anyone's calling them in any given year)
4. Turtlenecks with little pictures printed on them
5. Pleated khakis

Five favorite toys
1. Fabrizio, my new not-iPod (it's a Creative Zen Sleek)
2. Knitting needles
3. My computer
4. Electronic Boggle
5. DVD player

As usual, I left off the "who you're tagging" part. If you want to play along, consider yourself "tagged." If not, as you were...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine Schmalentine

I may have a cold, dark, empty heart, but truthfully I'm not at all bitter about all this Valentines business. I honestly couldn't care less about some stupid fake holiday.

I just think this picture is funny is all.

Bite me indeed

(Lifted from Visual Paradox, in case you want to snag it for your desktop wallpaper.)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Crazy is as crazy does

Since I'm apparently all about lists the last couple posts, here's a list of things I did last night:
  1. Pet my best friend's cat.
  2. Had a slice and a salad at Michael Scott's favorite "authentic New York pizza place." (That'd be Sbarro's, in case you missed The Office this week.)
  3. Saw Munich.
  4. Got verbally assaulted by my lunatic neighbor.
Which one do you want to hear about?

The cat, right? Yeah, everyone likes a good cat story... Instead, however, I think I'll talk about number 4.

Before last night, I had never actually spoken to the Crazy Lady who lives kitty-corner across the alley from me. My neighbors kitty-corner in the other direction had told me stories about her, and while I had no way of knowing whether any of the things they told me were actually true, I decided it best not to go out of my way to approach the woman. The stories my neighbors relayed ranged from the somewhat disturbing (e.g., Crazy telling them she was glad their elderly dog had died and then, a few months later, threatening the new puppy they adopted as well) to the downright absurd (e.g., Crazy trying to tear the gutters off another neighbor's house because she somehow rationalized that the flooding in her own basement was that neighbor's fault).

Whether the woman is truly certifiable or not, I did at the very least suspect some obvious issues with anger management and skewed perspective. While working in my yard one day last summer, I overheard what I thought was Crazy's half of a very heated phone conversation. She was obviously upset and seemingly irrationally defensive (over what, I had no idea). I'm not generally offended by a well-placed colorful profanity, but I do feel it loses its effect when you drop the f-word more times in thirty seconds than Tony Soprano did in all six seasons of The Sopranos. What alarmed me more than her language or volume, though, was when I realized there was a second voice in the conversation. She was not, in fact, on the phone; she was talking to someone sitting less than ten feet away from her. The person she was shouting at didn't match Crazy's decibel level or demeanor; on the contrary, person #2 sounded completely calm and rational, and not the least defensive. I can only assume it was a relative; I can't imagine someone not biologically bound to her putting up with that kind of rant without fighting back or simply up and leaving.

After that incident, I decided it best to avoid any contact, in an attempt to stay off Crazy's radar. My neighbors' stories and the fact that I've seen a police car in her driveway more than once only supported that decision.

I had a party at my house in September, and at one point I saw Crazy standing in the alley, staring down at us with her arms crossed in front of her. It wasn't terribly late and we weren't particularly loud, and Crazy didn't actually enter my yard or shout anything from her post, so I chose to ignore her and hope for the best. Since then, I have been a little bit worried that my cover as quiet, inconspicuous neighbor had been blown, but she hadn't once approached me, so I figured maybe I was in the clear. Until last night.

I pulled into my garage around 11:30 pm. I spent a few seconds gathering up the various bags I had on the front seat and exiting my car, so I probably wasn't paying attention or being as alert as I should be in a dark alley late at night. It's generally a safe neighborhood, so I have maybe a false and lazy sense of security sometimes. Therefore, when I heard a voice behind me as I reached for my garage door, I probably jumped two feet. When I turned and saw it was a neighbor (as opposed to a masked man with a machete), I should have been relieved, but since the neighbor was Crazy, I felt no less uneasy.

I have no idea where she came from; I didn't see her as I drove up the alley, and she wasn't wearing a coat. I can only assume she was watching from her window as I pulled in and decided to run out to discuss a very pressing matter on her mind. That matter, apparently, was garbage.

"You know," she began, in a snide and sarcastic and threatening tone, "I knew a really sweet old lady who used to live here, and she took her garbage out every Wednesday!"

I looked over at my City-provided garbage bin, standing out of the way against my neighbor's garage, in the same position it's been since the day I moved in, and I tried to decipher what her grievance with my trash habits might be.

"My garbage?" I asked, entirely confused (and still shaking a bit from having been startled so severely). "What's wrong with my garbage?"

"You'd better have a talk with your neighbors," she continued, "because this is bullshit, the garbage out here..."

I looked around at the neighboring houses. Everybody's trash bin was tucked as out of the way as possible, just like mine, all sidled along a garage or fence. Crazy's was, in fact, the only bin that was pulled away from her garage, carelessly left almost in the path of traffic.

Because I'm an intensely logical person, my need to understand her complaint apparently stood in the way of my realizing she likely had no complaint. You don't reason with lunacy; you nod and accept it and back away as swiftly as possible. That's the right way to respond. Instead, I pressed for explanation.

"What are you talking about??" I asked, foolishly. "What's the problem with my garbage?"

It was time for a new topic, apparently, because her reply was, "Well, your tree split and fell!"

Again, I sought for understanding instead of just retreating: "And that's my fault?" I asked.

Luckily she'd had enough of me at that point, it seems. Her final words were "Well I don't know, BITCH!" Then she muttered something in tongues and a bat flew out of her hair and she turned and ran away.

OK, so that last part didn't happen. But somehow, if I'm going to have a crazy person living next door, she might as well be amusingly crazy, in a folksy and mythical "villain in a children's story" sort of way. So that's the way I'm going to remember it. And that's what I'm going to tell the kids in the neighborhood as well. A healthy fear of eccentric strangers is good for them, right?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Welcome to "Stefanie Says." Can I help you?

No, unfortunately, I cannot. Not if you're looking for details on grown-up Stephanie Tanner's fall into a life of meth, anyway.

I hadn't heard that little bit of news myself; apparently I was slacking in my attention to celebrity gossip last week. Then I saw this posted on A Drawer Full of Papers, and suddenly I understood why "Stephanie from Full House Meth" showed up in my Sitemeter referrals list. Four times. Sheesh--You mention a cheesy 80s sitcom one time, and you make one tiny, totally unrelated reference to meth amphetamines just in passing, and suddenly this is where the gossip hounds end up.

Well, I can't tell you anything more about Ms. Sweetin's meth addiction. You'll have to research that elsewhere. Here are some more things I really can't tell you about.*
  • Scooby Doo Flavored Popsicle - I had no idea anyone was marketing such a thing, but if it's anything like the DQ Scooby Doo Mystery Crunch Blizzard Flavor Treat that had my dad pooping blue for two days back in 2002, I'd recommend you stay away from it.

  • I rode the short bus - That's OK. So does Spider-Man. Don't let the bullies get you down, man.

  • Darren cheated on Jenny - Look. I understand you're upset. You want answers. You want an explanation. But if you're wondering why he cheated on her, I don't think Google can tell you. If you just want to announce it to us, you'll have to post it on your own blog. [Incidentally, I assumed my site was a hit for that search because I've linked to this Darren more than once. Not so. The Darren I'd mentioned that time was actually the one on "Bewitched." I don't think he ever cheated on Jenny, either.]

  • Psalty Fan Club - No way. Psalty's got a fan club? Somebody tell Rod and Todd Flanders.

  • Lazy Town Stefanie - If I ever start a band (which is unlikely, considering my lack of talent for either singing or playing an instrument), I'm totally calling it Lazy Town. That or "Spider-Man Unitard," which has also shown up in my referrals more than once. Or is Lazy Town already a band name, and that's what this searcher was looking for? Regardless, this one is probably the least surprising item in the list, since I have probably referred to my laziness no less than 27 times in the 11 months since I started this blog. I guess I had it coming.

  • Is revealing cleavage in work place appropriate - I suppose it depends on where you work, but as a general rule, I'm gonna go with "No."

  • When teen says she "made out" with someone what does it mean? - The same thing it meant when you were a teen, probably. If this isn't in your lexicon, I'm guessing you didn't have a very interesting rumspringa.

  • Leggy magician assistants - Chris, was that you? (Oh. Sorry. I mean "Anonymous." Not Chris. Yeah.)

  • Tyra Banks weighs 150 pounds - See? I'm not the only one who doesn't believe it.

  • Are gauchos considered professional clothing - If you're a South American cattle herder, sure. If not, again I'm gonna have to go with "No."

  • Drunk cheerleaders kissing and making out - Seriously?? No, really--seriously? All I have to say here is "Boy, do you have the wrong blog."

  • Stefanie Hooters - Again, this really isn't that kind of site. And there's a reason my picture isn't anywhere on it. (Though that reason really has nothing to do with Hooters.)

* Otherwise known as the obligatory "guess what wacky things people typed into search engines to end up here" post that every blogger publishes periodically. I am nothing if not a joiner, clearly.

"Lazy Town Stefanie" showed up in my site referrals again yesterday, which I guess isn't a big surprise, considering I wrote the exact phrase right out like that. (I can't wait to get more people coming here looking for "drunk cheerleaders kissing and making out" now, too.) Anyway, apparently this is what people are looking for. Clearly I'm not up on my trippy kid's television shows.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Yes, yes, I know I'm being inconsistent and selectively choosing when I'm anti-meme and when I'm not, but haven't you heard it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind? Besides that, even Dooce did this one, so it must have some shred of intrigue to it. Anyway, whatever the rationalization, here we go: the infamous "Four Things" meme...

Four jobs I've had

  1. Dishwasher and banquet waitress at the supper club where 80% of my town's wedding receptions and class reunions are held
  2. Field tester for Tecumseh lawn mower engines
  3. Linen crew manager in my college's residence halls
  4. Cheese packer (i.e., packaging assembly line worker) at Land o' Lakes

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. Say Anything
  3. Never Been Kissed
  4. Bridget Jones's Diary (just the first one, of course)

Four places I have lived
  1. A tiny town in Wisconsin that due to some ridiculously misguided desire for semi-anonymity I'm still too paranoid to name. (I'm likely the only Stefanie with an "f" ever to live there, if that helps at all.)
  2. Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  3. Dalkeith, Scotland
  4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Four TV shows I love
  1. Gilmore Girls (even if it is, clearly, well past its peak of excellence)
  2. The Office (initially just the British version, but the US incarnation has grown on me as well)
  3. The Simpsons
  4. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Four places I've vacationed
  1. Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Florence, and Rome (all part of the same two-week spring break during a semester abroad)
  2. Cozumel, Mexico
  3. Acadia National Park, Maine
  4. Mishicot, Wisconsin (by far the most exciting on this list, as you can well imagine)

Four of my favorite foods
  1. Taco Bell's Seven-Layer Burrito
  2. The Siciliana from Pizza Nea
  3. Sesame Chicken from Yin Yang (I live nowhere near there anymore, and I really need to find some good sesame chicken in my current neighborhood)
  4. Frozen Colorado Bulldogs (Is alcohol a food? Surely it should qualify...)

Four sites I visit daily
  1. Salon
  2. CNN
  3. Merriam-Webster
  4. Natalie Dee

(Yes, yes, I know I've left every one of my favorite bloggers off this list, but I can't narrow it down to just four, so I unreasonably just skipped that whole category entirely.)

Four places I'd rather be right now

  1. On a beach in Jamaica (or on a beach anyplace warm and not war-torn)
  2. In a pub in Dublin
  3. Under my down comforter
  4. Anyplace where an attractive man is telling me I'm beautiful and clever

Four people I'm tagging
Eh. If you haven't played yet and feel inclined, be my guest.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Oooh... shiny!

Look what the UPS man just brought for me!

Shiny new toy

Before you go thinking the UPS man and I are unusually close and he's pilfering from the truck to provide other people's packages as presents just for me, I should clarify that I actually ordered this shiny new toy, and have been anxiously awaiting its arrival for several days now.

I'm definitely a minimalist, technology-wise, so any sort of fancy gadget is a big step for me. I'm terribly excited to get home and start playing with it, though. I may not go quite this far, but I do expect a further story will be in order at some point.

Now... what to name the little guy...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm checking the box for "Does not meet expectations"

Last month, in lieu of any positive and hopeful resolutions for the new year, I chose to list my anti-resolutions, claiming I preferred to be happy and at peace with myself mostly as I am and to accept that the person I am now is essentially the person I'm going to be. I still stand by a lot of those sentiments, but I also have to recognize that certain portions of that post are utter bullshit. I'm not happy with myself exactly as I am, and there are certain things I need to change. I'm not going to go into detail; I'm a pretty open book among my close friends (and even strangers, sometimes), but I'm sure anyone who posts their private thoughts to the Internet on a regular basis understands that there are certain things it's just not a good idea to go into when you have no control over who might one day read them.

That said, however, I will talk about one item I need to rethink on my anti-resolutions list, and that's the one that concerns dating. It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I had my heart broken last year when the one who was supposed to be The One proved otherwise. It's also no secret that I'm still not fully over it. And while I've made some isolated attempts at "getting back out there" since then, for the most part I haven't particularly felt like dating, and I haven't seen any reason to force it. I hate dating. It's a horrible way to spend an evening, in far too many cases. Plenty of otherwise lovely meals and enjoyable movies have been entirely ruined by the company with which I've experienced them. Someday I will write a whole post about all the guys I've had only one date with and the reasons certain friends of mine still tell those "one date" stories to other friends at parties. I still mean it when I say that I'd rather spend the night alone or with a friend than waste time with someone I'm not at all excited about. On the other hand, I do realize that dating is an unfortunate prerequisite to finding someone I am excited about, and I don't want to give up on that. My new New Year's resolution, therefore, is to stop being so damn averse to uncomfortable meals with strangers and get back out there again. Wish me luck, because this could get interesting.

How I decided to go about facilitating this new goal is a topic for a whole other post entirely. For now, I just thought it would be amusing to recount the details of the first subject in this experiment. Where I met him is not important, but I'll tell you it involves the Internet and a mutual condemnation for modern Republicans. Seems a reasonable enough start in 2006, no?

His name was Judd--a fact I had a hard enough time getting over before I even got to the point of investigating whether our personalities were at all compatible. Judd? Really? Seriously, how am I going to get used to that? A friend of mine was actually a little helpful when she said, "Oh, like Judd Nelson?" Judd Nelson's not a bad association to raise the name in my esteem, but by then it was really too late. Already all I could think of when I heard the name was my very sweet but unfortunately unattractive classmate, Bubba Krause, playing Judd in our high school production of Oklahoma!, his shiny prematurely balding head gleaming in the spotlight as he sang in a low bass, "Poor Judd is dead; poor poor Judd is dead..."

The name aside, it seemed we were a good match on paper. We described many similar interests (beyond "Oh, you wear shoes, too? Cool..."), and had comparable views on the state of the non-so-united Union (the aforementioned disdain for Republicans). He even quoted a 17th Century English poet, which I found remarkably unexpected from a man in the construction industry. I really do try to avoid putting people in a little box, from assuming that what they do or what they like entirely defines them in some predictable way. Still, Judd was a fascinating study in well-roundedness. I decided that it's not such a big deal if he drives a truck and owns a Labrador*, since he also reads regularly and can name more than four modern artists. It doesn't matter if he's "just a farm boy at heart" (his words, not mine), when he also has a masters in economics. It shouldn't concern me that he owns a gun and is a card-carrying member of the NRA, if he also... No, sorry; I take that back. That one does concern me. That one I can't be OK with.

Regardless, his NRA membership is not the reason our one date will be our only date. Really, it was as simple and unremarkable as "the chemistry just wasn't there." For whatever reason, we just didn't click, and it's really nothing more than that. Still, have you ever gone on a date and thought, "You're a nice enough person... you've clearly got some things going for you... would you mind if I gave you a couple pointers?"

No one asks for a performance review at the end of a bad (or good) date, but maybe it's about time we start. For example, to Judd, my advice would be this, above all else: "Dude, seriously: React!"

He warned me in advance that he's a bit stoic, I guess. "I have a real poker face," he said. "My sense of humor doesn't always come out right away." Sense of humor, unfortunately, wasn't even the issue. The fact was that, whether I was talking about the last book I read, or the declining health of my 94-year-old grandma, or the ridiculous thing I saw on TV last week, his expression never changed. I understand the benefit of "poker face" when you're trying not to reveal your hand in cards, but on a date, your "hand" is whether you're remotely interested in the person in front of you, and I have a hard time understanding how disguising that will get you anywhere.

Considering his seeming indifference, I really thought the inevitable "Well, thanks; see ya!" part at the end of the date would be remarkably smooth. Surely when there's as little a connection as I'd just experienced, the feeling has to be entirely mutual, right? Yeah, not so much. I remembered on this date (just in case I'd somehow forgotten) exactly why I hate dating so much. The first reason is the awkward "Who pays the check" part (which was averted this time by him grabbing it almost instantly and saying, "Mind if I get this?"). The second is that moment when he asks, "So, would you like to get together again?" and my answer is a pretty solid "Um, not really, thanks" while his is apparently "That's a great idea!"

Unlike Judd and his poker face, I have an incredibly hard time disguising my true feelings about any situation. I've mentioned my bluntness and my lack of a mental goalie before, so when Judd said, "I like you," I think I may have actually responded with a confused and incredulous "Really??" I mean, I know back in grade school, we were told that boys pulled our hair and stole our mittens because they liked us, not because they despised us, but really I thought by our 30s we could be more direct than that. If you like me, you laugh at my jokes (even when they're not all that funny). You nod and smile when I tell you a story, and you wait for an answer after asking me a question, instead of changing the subject mid-reply.

So. Performance reviews for dating. I think it's an idea that could work. Perhaps I'll start working on the multiple choice questions right now. Anyone want to help?

* I realize I should have nothing against Labradors; they're fine dogs, really. I've just had some bad experiences with an overly enthusiastic and hyperactive Labrador puppy. Also, I had to mention this for my friend Dale, who I know will read this and be reminded of the time I insisted that my main gripe with Labs is the way they jab at me painfully with their angular elbows. It makes total sense to me, but he can't understand it without imagining a dog literally elbowing me like a human, and it's continually amusing to him. So that was for you, Dale, OK?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

And another thing... where's my hovercraft already?

If genetic engineers can use their power for good instead of evil by coming up with something as spectacular as the Honeycrisp apple, why can't they manage to make an orange (or hybrid thereof) without all the nasty white rind to pick off? It's like trying to peel away all the stuck-on paper bits from a slightly weathered Laffy Taffy, but the payoff is even less rewarding.

It's 2006, after all. Is this really too much to ask?

This isn't the "better post" I promised yesterday, by the way. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster has given me a new word to describe one of my more annoying afflictions. When I looked at their Word of the Day today, I immediately thought, "Hey! That's me."

abulia \ay-BOO-lee-uh\
: abnormal lack of ability to act or to make decisions

I particularly like the part of their subsequent "Did you know?" discussion that indicates the word was created to name a severe medical disorder that can render a person nearly inert.

Inert. Yeah, that's another good word for me these days (mentally, I mean... my body is still in motion, so to speak--I could tell you plenty of gym stories if I didn't feel that's all I ever talk about).

I'm not announcing myself as abulic because I'm proud of it in any way. It's more like I've discovered that some ailment I've assumed is all in my head actually has a name and a medical explanation. There's comfort in that, in some strange way.

That or I'm just analyzing the Word of the Day too much because I have nothing else to write about. Yeah, that could be it.

I'll try to harness some creativity and come up with a better post later, OK?