Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The first year I owned my house, I was actually a little bit excited about the trick-or-treaters. I carefully picked out a solid variety of candy, and I hurried home after work to make sure I was there in time to hand it out. It's sort of a strange rite of passage realizing that now you're the adult with the big bowl of candy, waiting to answer the door. It made me feel grown up, in an oddly less negative way than writing my mortgage check or mailing my electric bill did. I actually thought it was fun.

By now, however, the fun has, unfortunately, worn off. I actually considered not buying any candy this year, and instead hiding out in the dark pretending not to be home, like the cranky old lady I've apparently become. But then I remembered my nice neighbors across the street and their perfectly sweet little girl LuLu, who would surely be coming to knock on my door. And I remembered the little girl in the tiara last year who made my night with her impossible cuteness. And I bought two bags of assorted candy anyway.

Last night at Target, I almost changed my mind about handing it out. I overheard two teenagers talking in the pain relievers aisle, and their exchange went something like this:

Boy: So, um, we should, like, hang out sometime.
Girl: Yeah, that'd be cool. OK.
Boy: All right. Yeah.
Girl: So, are you going trick-or-treating tomorrow?

I'm sorry; I'm all for the joy of youth and clinging tight to the benefits of childhood for as long as reasonably possible, but if you are old enough to nervously sort-of ask a girl on an almost, maybe-date, then you are, in fact, too old for trick-or-treating.

You know what another sign is that you're too old for trick-or-treating? The fact that you are already a licensed driver and are skipping between houses in a car instead of going it by foot.

After the third group of teenagers showed up wearing nothing that could, as far as I could tell, be in any way considered a costume, I decided to shut down for the night. I turned off my porch light and living room light and drew the curtains closed. Unfortunately, a rabbit or squirrel must have set off the motion light above my side door, and one more group decided that was an open invitation to ring that bell instead.

So now I am sitting in complete and total darkness, typing away by the light of nothing but my Dell flat-screen monitor.

I am nothing if not festive and clearly filled with holiday spirit.

At least no one showed up dressed as a clipboard-toting progressive activist. Because really, that might have been enough to put me off Halloween for good.

In all fairness, I should say that the tiny chicken and her bumblebee sister who showed up earlier in the night were almost adorable enough to make me forget the later hoodlums. Almost. I'm not quite that pure and unjaded, after all.

I really will make an excellent crotchedy old lady someday; don't you agree?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The streets are paved with diamonds and there's just so much to see*

What was that I said about a full New York trip recap? Did I say I was going to do that? Right. The best laid plans, and all of that. It's now been more than three full days since my return, which means that any good stories I may have actually stored up to tell you have likely blurred into hazy memories in my brain. Seriously, one day after I got back, a friend asked me what the highlight of my trip was, and I drew a total blank. I tried skimming through the various memories in my head and realized I had no idea what we did for a full four hours or more of our Saturday afternoon/evening. See? Even when I'm on vacation, I can't escape the alien abduction-like time warps. Sigh.

Anyway, in lieu of any coherent and well-structured stories, I do still have some photos for you, which I shall attempt to caption and segue between, photo-essay-style, as though something so half-assed was actually my plan all along. Lazy and half-assed... it is, as Homer says, the American way, and far be it from me to betray my heritage. So here we go.

Our story begins in Brooklyn, as it's where Darren's apartment is (or was, as I believe he is probably moving right now as I type). I wasn't planning to write about how Darren kindly offered up his home so that I wouldn't have to spend a full month's mortgage payment on my lodging for the weekend... I respect the man's privacy, and I thought perhaps telling the Internet about this arrangement would be akin to inserting messages in hobo code in his comments or sidebar to direct other free-loaders his way. Since he told everyone about it himself, however, I think it's safe to mention. Therefore, this is Brooklyn. Darren's street. Nice, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

I'm thinking of getting some gargoyles myself, to spruce up my own front steps. They'd look quite nice beside my generic, shoebox-styled 1950 rambler, don't you think? I'm all about being regal and classy, don't you know.

From Darren's place, it is just a quick subway ride to the edge of Brooklyn. Or, it should be a quick subway ride, if you know how to ride the subway and understand that, during construction, the C train becomes the F train and you will, in fact, veer on over to Manhattan far earlier and via a different path than you intended to. But that's probably just me and Lisa. I'm sure the rest of you would have understood the whimsical route-shuffling just fine and would have ended up at Grimaldi's without back-tracking and changing trains three times. Right? Yeah. Anyway, this is Grimaldi's.

They have what both Lonely Planet and Fodder's identified as some of the best "authentic New York pizza" available, so of course, we decided to try it ourselves. Apparently everyone else read the same books, because the line stretched all the way down the block. It moved surprisingly quickly, however, given the fact that the tables inside were approximately four inches apart from one another and the fact that our food arrived approximately six minutes after we ordered it. The only explanation I can provide for this speedy service (other than a miraculous, space-aged, nuclear-powered brick oven that bakes pizzas in one-third the normal time) is that the cooks have telepathic powers and are somehow able to predict each table's order even before they sit down, giving them a bit of a head start to get things moving. (What's that about an overactive imagination? Yeah, I seem to demonstrate it a lot.)

Grimaldi's is located just beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, so after lunch we found the entrance and made the scenic walk across. It was, incidentally, one of the few times all weekend when we managed to successfully stack together two consecutive plans that were entirely geographically convenient. I was rather proud of us for that one, I must say.

Grand Central Station wasn't on our list, as it's one of the few places Lisa and I had both already seen on brief, earlier visits to New York, but when you end up at that station by chance, you might as well look around again, right? And so we did.

The lighting was really strange in there, presumably because they were filming something at the ticket booth about twenty feet away. We didn't get a very good look (we actually got a better look at the catering table for the crew on the way out of the station, though our obvious scoping didn't score us any free snacks, unfortunately), but I don't think there was anybody famous involved. Still, if you see me as an unintentional extra in an American Express commercial or a random transitional scene in a movie in the coming months, be sure to let me know, OK? I'll be the girl in the green sweater and black jacket (and, of course, the new nerdy-girl glasses).

Next on our agenda was the United Nations tour. Or, rather, I should say next on Lisa's agenda. It's not that I didn't want to go there; I actually learned quite a bit and enjoyed the tour a great deal. I just wouldn't have thought of it on my own as something worth doing while in New York. Lisa dreams of a life where she regularly hob-nobs with foreign diplomats, however, so this was perhaps the most excited face I saw on her all weekend.

This next picture doesn't really transition well from the Lisa smiley-face one, but since it was taken outside the UN building, it fits here nonetheless. Mainly I just like both the photo and the sentiment.

Since the UN was Lisa's choice, it was my turn next, of course. To prove I am just as big a geek as Lisa, I chose the public library. Word of advice when you're traveling with friends: if you're a tremendous nerd, it's best if your traveling partners are, too. I don't know what I would have done if Lisa had wanted to spend the full trip following shady characters into alleyways to check out designer knock-offs. In other words, I said, "Can we go to the library?" and, rather than raising her eyebrows at me, Lisa simply said, "Sure."

Since we got to the library only shortly before closing and I didn't even have time to properly peruse the gift shop (I may not have gone to NY for the shopping, but I still enjoy a good gift shop, of course), we made the next destination a literary-minded one as well. Well, literary plus alcohol, which is a fine combo, if you ask me.

This is the Algonquin. Dorothy Parker drank here.**

And now I did as well.

Following the most expensive (but bookish!) cocktail I've ever had, we did some more wandering around Manhattan with no clear goal. Here are just a couple of the many notable landmarks upon which we stumbled.

Can you believe it? Skating in October already! Cheesy and ridiculous and overpriced as it was, I totally wanted to tie on some skates and join these folks. Unfortunately, we never made it back for that, for reasons that were entirely my fault and shall be detailed later. Someday, I will skate here. Next trip, I suppose.

Sunday was perhaps my favorite day of our trip. We went to MoMA and then Wicked. I took about 73 pictures at the former, but I'll spare you and share only four.

That night, after the show, we had a lovely dinner in SoHo at a place my pal Guinness Girl recommended. My meal came with fancy-schmancy macaroni and cheese (a crazily priced $6 side dish had I ordered it on its own), and Lisa's came with some tasty French Fries served in--I kid you not--a terra cotta pot. Upon detailing her diet for the day later, she exclaimed, "I just ate a whole flower pot of fries!" It was, I think, one of my favorite quotes from the trip***, and I'm very sorry I don't have a picture of the pot to share with you. We did photo-document our food, as we generally do, for some reason, but those pictures are locked away on Lisa's camera, and I suspect I may never see them again.

After dinner, we enjoyed two more fancy cocktails at Pravda, a few blocks away.

They have 79 kinds of vodka on hand. So, of course, I ordered something with gin.

And then, we had even more drinks at an Irish pub down the street. Are you sensing some foreshadowing here? If so, you are smart. More on that in a moment, when I'm done showing you these.

Every bar should have a live band with a baby, don't you think?

Every bar should also have tasty spiced apple martinis. That is, unless the bar is serving people who want to get up and enjoy some sight-seeing and ice skating on their last day of vacation. In that case, the spiced apple martinis are a bad, bad idea.

Perhaps this is a good time to show you our hotel's bathroom, as I spent a bit more time in it that night than I did the rest of our trip. Our hotel may have cost us significantly more than our lodgings at Darren's place did, but it was kind of fancy, actually, too.

Not just fancy, in fact, but phone-in-the-bathroom fancy.

Unfortunately, no one I could have called on that phone would have been able to do anything about the poison I'd foolishly let into my body. That had to work its way out on its own, in ways I won't detail for you right now. Seriously, there is a story behind this that would rival one somebody once told on his blog but that I won't hunt for and link to out of respect for the story teller. My story involves vomit and the unfortunate location in which it occurred. His story involves things that occur at the posterior end, but already I've said too much. Suffice it to say that perhaps I'll tell this story some day, but this is not that day.

I will say, however, that New York is, as far as I know, quite possibly the worst place in the country to have a hangover. Aside from the constant standing and walking and the jerking, swaying trains you have to take in between the standing and walking, there are crowds and jostling and a new smell every seven feet. And not just good smells, like bakeries and coffee shops or even roasted chicken or duck dangling from a wire hook in a window. No, there's also sewage and bus exhaust and, my favorite (since it comes with a visual as well): raw seafood.

Did I mention that some of this seafood wasn't even really quite dead? Yeah, clearly Lisa said "No thanks" to the martinis a bit earlier than I did the previous evening, because she was entirely more fascinated by the wonders of Chinatown than I was at that point.

Luckily, by the end of the day, the hangover was on its last legs, and I was feeling brave enough to enjoy dinner and margaritas with Darren and Miss Peach. In case you missed Wednesday's post, that looked something like this.

And that about sums things up, I guess. All in all, it was a great trip, and I can't wait to go back again someday soon.


* In case you're not Nabbalicious and you don't have a tremendous, searchable mental database of every lyric ever written, I will help you out and admit that yes, I just titled two out of my last four posts with lyrics from the same damn song. It's a song that's been on near-constant loop in my head for approximately four weeks now, though (ever since Lisa and I booked our trip and pretty much whenever I thought about it from that point forward), so perhaps that explains why it's still coming to mind. There are, of course, more annoying New York-related songs that could have embedded themselves in my brain, so I'm going to count myself lucky this time.

** This is both a fact and a Gilmore Girls reference. Kudos to you if you got both.

*** Maybe even slightly edging out the culturally insensitive comment I made when Lisa asked me how my feet were holding up in my impractical pointy-toed shoes: "I'll just walk like my feet are hobbled. Like a little Chinese girl," I said.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Or maybe "Imaginary Roaches"

I haven't really been watching my Referrals list in Sitemeter lately; my stat-checking obsession seems to wax and wane regularly, and the waning part is the side to which I guess I swing most often. I had to take a look today, though, to see if anything new or amusing had turned up.

And what did I find? Surprisingly few of the usual search terms (which I would repeat here if I didn't know that it will only perpetuate those same searchers continually ending up at my blog). But I also discovered that I am currently the #1 hit for the search tank unitard Minneapolis, MN. Yay me.

This actually makes me lose a little faith in Google more than anything else. I don't know where I would look instead for tank unitard info in Minneapolis, but if you're coming for it on my blog, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

In other news, I think Phantom Ants would be an excellent band name.

Remember when this was almost fully a dating blog? Let's revisit that for a moment, OK?

Don't ask me why I remember this (it's just one of the many, many bits of useless television knowledge I have rattling around in my brain), but I recall an old episode of Who's the Boss where Tony and Angela try to set up Tony's friend with Angela's cousin--a cousin who is thirty years old and has been on only three dates. "That's a date a decade," Mona pointed out for emphasis. As a kid, I understood that this woman must be a socially inept and undateable loser, but somewhere around my early twenties, I started to think, "A date a decade? Hm. Yeah, that's about right."

I'm exaggerating, of course; I think I've already clarified that I had my fair share of dates before my thirtieth birthday, but I was a late bloomer nonetheless. High school and college weren't particularly active for me, date-wise, and I sort of think that all the dating I've been doing this year is almost making up for lost time, in a way.

I haven't talked about any dates lately, but it's not because I've met Mr. Perfect-for-Me and just decided to keep him a secret for a while longer; it's because I haven't had any dates in the past couple months. I may have had a much-talked-about post-wedding reception encounter that I blame on the inhibitions-lowering combo of wine and formal wear, but nothing that could reasonably be considered a date.

Frankly, this has been a nice break for me. While I was in meMarmony's matching database, I was regularly meeting and agreeing to have drinks with strangers as though it were actually some fun new hobby and not a series of mostly awkward social encounters that left me wishing I'd just stayed home and watched episodes of Mary Tyler Moore on DVD. Deep down, however, I must be some kind of masochist (or, to look at it a better way, some kind of optimist), because lately I've been feeling like it's time to get back out there and try yet again.

It was with that thought in mind, then, that I agreed to meet the guy mentioned as #5 in this post*, despite the series of ever less interesting and ever more poorly written emails that led up to our little get-together. I'd like to think I was guided by optimism and open-mindedness as I headed out the door for the evening, but I'm a little ashamed to admit that the fumbling writer in me was probably thinking a bad date might actually make for better blog fodder. Self-fulfilling prophesies be damned; at least I'd have a post for the morning!

Unfortunately, it was all pretty uneventful, so I don't have any particularly shocking or amusing stories to relay. It is Friday, however, and you know what that means. The details I am going to share will be presented in five-point-list form.

Five random things about my date last night

  1. We met at the same place as my first date with "sheep testicles** guy." Because this is apparently the place where I can say wildly inappropriate things and still be deemed charming and receive a request for a second date, I somehow found a way to crack a joke about the Holocaust. A joke. About the Holocaust. And he laughed. Because, you know, those tortured Jews really are a laugh riot. I am so totally going to hell. Maybe I'll meet some Nazis there. I'm sure we'll have much to discuss.

  2. I don't mean to imply that alcohol is in any way necessary for a good time, but it surely does help a bit at times, don't you agree? This guy, however, did not have a drink until he was in his mid-twenties. No, a medical condition, religious conviction, or alcoholic in the family were not factors in this decision. He just never felt particularly compelled to enjoy a drink. Apparently by now he's up to a glass or two of wine a month, which means he'd make an excellent designated driver, I suppose, but still, it's a point of view I'm having a hard time understanding. No drinks? Nearly never? But why not??

  3. It occurred to me about midway through the date that this guy has the same last name as Darren (not to mention a first name that's only a few characters different as well), and I pondered for a minute what a crazy coincidence and a miniscule world it would be if Darren actually had a cousin in St. Paul and I was having a Chai with him. I highly, highly doubt that is the case, but it amused me nonetheless.

  4. I may zero in involuntarily on a misplaced comma or apostrophe, but I don't often focus on some bothersome feature of a companion's appearance and find myself unable to make peace with it in any way. At least five times during this date, however, I wanted to ask the guy sitting across from me if he was aware that the narrow strip of facial hair between his lower lip and chin was actually off center just a tad. Who am I? Why would I notice that? (But more importantly, why doesn't he?)

  5. Deciding we hadn't yet covered all "the usual topics," the guy chose to ask me about my musical tastes. After returning a blank stare at nearly every band I mentioned, he explained that he really doesn't listen to anything current. "Current," incidentally, seems to mean anything released in the last twenty years. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; I'm sure he's got some great and classic favorites that withstand the test of time. But why on earth would you bring up music if the conversation that follows is bound to make you sound like you've spent the better part of your life locked in a bomb shelter? I'm just saying.

Despite all of this nitpickery and mocking, however, it wasn't a bad time overall. I don't think we've got a love connection, Chuck, but the jury could probably deliberate just a bit longer. Or maybe not. We shall see.

* My my. Could I possibly be any more clicky-clicky link-link with this post? I don't really expect anyone to click back on all of these, but I figure source material can at times be beneficial.

** Oh goodie. I found yet another way to work the word "testicles" into a blog entry. Keep on coming, all you "castration story" freaks. I see you in my Sitemeter lists; don't think I don't know you're there.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

'Cause everyone's your friend in New York City

Well, maybe not everyone. The Johns of TMBG might have been exaggerating just a tad with that. But the natives actually were quite amicable, particularly the ones who helped our obviously confused selves make sense of the subway routes when we were clearly feeling underconfident in our map-comprehending abilities. (I maintain that I know how to read a subway map, as I've done so successfully in plenty of other cities without trouble, but either construction has things more messed up there than we realized or New York's underground train tunnels shift around and lock into new positions constantly and without warning, like the pathways in the Labyrinth or some such thing. That could, of course, be my overactive imagination rationalizing for my own poor sense of direction, but I maintain that it is possible... not to mention an entirely more interesting explanation.)

Anyway, my point is, if you ask me, New Yorkers have gotten a bad rap. Friendliness and good will can abound, even in a city of chaos and crowding. I would have come home with this happy assessment even if I hadn't met the famous* Darren and the charming* Miss Peach, though of course, meeting them only served to solidify the opinion. I mean really. Darren mailed me his keys and let me stay in his home without even asking for a credit card or driver's license number first. Even in the supposedly hospitality-minded Midwest you won't find a whole lot of people who'll do that. Darren may be impressed that I Swiffered his floor, but if you had seen the way he carefully laid out a set of neatly folded, soft, white towels for us on his bed, you would have understood the need to reciprocate and leave his place as clean and tidy as he'd left it for us. He didn't go so far as to rest a square of chocolate on each pillow, but he was, all in all, a very helpful and gracious absent host.

* Is "charming" better than "famous"? Does "famous" make Darren sound more important than Peach? I'm having a hard time coming up with a set of adjectives that will flatter them equally and not offend. Suffice it to say they were both witty conversationalists and excellent hosts, and I shall simply leave it at that.

I'll recount other details of the rest of our trip later, but for now, I thought I'd follow the photos that Darren posted of our time at Cowgirl with some decidedly less trippy ones of my own.

Me, Peach, and Darren

Clearly, in this one, Peach has captivated Lisa with hypnosis and is using her powers of suggestion to get Lisa to hand her drink over to Darren. You may think none of that is actually going on, but a photo doesn't lie, people.

If you are one of the three remaining bloggers who hasn't yet met Darren, I will give you a little not-so-secret clue about him. Darren seems to think that if he doesn't look at you directly, you will not notice the ginormous camera he is pointing at your face. This trick may work on the subway, but it is a bit less successful when he is sitting right across from you in a bar. Luckily, I have been reading his blog long enough that I fully expected the Snappy McClicksalot** assault. Lisa was decidedly less prepared, but was amused by it nonetheless.

** Did I get that right, Darren, or is it Clicky McSnapsalot?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Five: Phoning it in last-minute style

Despite the fact that I took the whole day off work to allow myself ample time to pack and prepare for my early evening flight, I'm still finding myself scrambling at the very last minute to wrap things up and head out of here. This happens invariably every time I do this. I leisurely putter about, thinking, "I have the WHOLE DAY," and then somehow, eight free hours turns into four, which turns into two, which turns into me logging in to Blogger in my last 20 minutes before departure to quickly rattle out what is likely my lamest Friday Five to date.

Sorry about that. For whatever it's worth, here we go.

Five things I did while I should have been packing, cleaning, and doing various other pre-travel preparatory tasks

  1. Slept in far longer than necessary.
  2. Watched The View. (I didn't get up early enough for Ellen.)
  3. Balanced my checkbook and paid my cable, credit card, and electric bills.
  4. Decided I needed a black hoodie; made a last-minute trip to Target in an attempt to find one.
  5. Wrote this pretty much pointless little blog post.

And now I'm off to New York for a few days of shopping, eating, and likely walking until my toes fall off. Have a great weekend, everyone, and I'll catch you next week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I'm all that

I got new glasses last week. Not only were the old wire frames a little outdated, but the lenses were so scratched up that they made everything look a bit hazy and out-of-focus, which is a bit counter-productive considering that's the exact problem glasses are meant to correct. Since I am a creature of habit and rarely a quick study, however, I seemed unable to remember that the scratches were the problem, and instead was continually thinking I had a smudge of some sort to rub off. In case you're wondering, removing your glasses and polishing them with the edge of your shirt more than five times in the span of one brief conversation does, in fact, make people look at you as though you've just pulled a Melvin Udall and flipped the light switch 17 times in rapid succession. I may have my own set of personality quirks, but engaging in bizarrely repetitive behaviors as a means of warding off mental demons really isn't one of them. Not that I know of, anyway. Therefore, the old glasses had to go.

In addition to crystal clear and smudge-free lenses, my new glasses have those slightly thicker, plastic, tortoise shell frames that are so popular among geeky-chic bookish types (and anyone who wants to look like a geeky-chic bookish type). Tina Fey wears them. My friend Angela wears them. Even Gisele Bundchen in The Devil Wears Prada wore them.

You know who else wore them, though? Rachael Leigh Cook as Laney Boggs in She's All That. As has every other supposedly homely girl in every movie that follows that same ugly-duckling-turns-fabulous-hottie story line. It's a formula that's so well known, it was the major plot of the parody film Not Another Teen Movie a few years back. "Ugh; not her," the stereotypically hot guy's friend scoffs. "She's got glasses. And a ponytail!"

I didn't even remember that I'd actually seen that movie, until I was pulling my hair into a ponytail after work tonight and that line popped into my head. It was the end of the day, so my makeup was nearly worn off, and I'd already changed into my yoga pants and a sloppy gray sweatshirt. As I pulled my hair through the elastic band the last time and let the ponytail drop onto my neck, I realized I'd just given myself a reverse makeover. I looked pretty much like the homely girl in all of those movies before everyone realizes that she's gorgeous.

Of course, this realization would be slightly less disheartening if I actually looked anything like the real Rachael Leigh Cook when I remove the glasses and let my hair down. But I figured I probably shouldn't let that get to me too much. I decided I was being ridiculous and I looked, more or less, just fine. Fine enough for yoga, anyway. That was, until Amy and I decided to hit an area coffee shop after class. Walking from my car towards the building, I looked down at the haphazard and anything-but-stylish outfit I'd assembled: blue tank top, gray hoodie, and baggy polar fleece, accompanied by cropped black yoga pants, black biker-style Sketchers, and, the real selling point of the ensemble, little white ankle socks. Yes, I went out in public in black capri-length pants, black shoes, and white socks. I am a dork. Freddie Prinze Jr. will never ask me to the prom at this rate.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Clip this

You know that old saying about how, if you're not a liberal at 25, you have no heart, but if you're still a liberal at 35, you have no brain? Well, I can't really imagine any turn of events or life influences that would morph me into a Republican in the next three years, but I do wonder how my disdain for clipboard-toting door-knockers factors into my whole compassion level and how many more of them I can say "No" to before I can no longer be deemed on their side.

I used to feel for the Clipboard Kids. They'd come to my door and, internally, I'd applaud their idealism, their passion, their dedication to a cause. I never even felt comfortable selling Girl Scout cookies, and these kids manage to muster their courage and steel their pride while they knock on strangers' doors for money? Money with no promise of cookies in return? I mean, cookie sales are a win-win. Sure, I was trying to raise money to keep Camp Evelyn afloat, but it's not like I was offering nothing in return. There were cookies! People love cookies! Delicious peanut butter Tagalongs and refreshing, crispy Thin Mints? Who's going to say No to that? Frankly, I was doing my neighbors a favor by ringing their bell with order form in hand! And yet, I abhorred the whole experience. I certainly wasn't spending my college years reliving it with a clipboard in hand.

I realize that donating money to worthwhile causes should be more valuable and rewarding than cookies, but frankly, I am worn down. I care, I care; I really do care. I don't want the Alaskan wilderness ripped up to drill for what amounts to a teaspoon of our nation's giant bucket-sized oil consumption. I don't want a bunch of old, white men deciding what is right for a woman's body. I don't want children to be cold or hungry, here or anywhere else. I don't want Governor Pawlenty to get another four years to further muck up our state. But I just. can't. give. Not to every one of them. Not anymore.

Is it cold and heartless that tonight I turned away the long-haired, nose-ringed kid fighting to block Koch's planned oil pipeline in Minnesota? That, even when he stressed that any amount would help ("Seriously, anything you can give," he pleaded. "Your neighbor* joined at the basic $6 level..."), I still said, "Sorry; I can't help you right now" and sent him on his way? I actually tried to assuage my guilt when he left by theorizing that his whole clipboard racket was a scam. I've never heard of his organization; he probably made it up, I thought. Anyone with a computer and some basic word processing skills can create a sign-up sheet and stick it on a clipboard, right? Well, nope. Not in this case, anyway. Unless the Web site is fake, too (which, of course, now I'm entirely considering, you know), then so much for that theory, I guess.

The thing is, I do support these causes, and I give where and when I can (even if it just means they keep coming back for more, like the stray cat my neighbor** started feeding months ago and now won't go away). But my resentment over being guilted in my own home by a clipboard-toting twenty-something has somehow begun to outweigh my concern for their cause.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Lots of us hit the deck and kill the TV the second we hear the doorbell ring, because we assume whoever's on the other side has a pen and an envelope and wants us to make good use of both. Gone are the days of the drop-by visitor; our best friend could be out there with a bottle--nay, two bottles--of wine and a fresh pizza in hand, and we'd never know it unless she phoned to warn us first. And even then we wouldn't know, unless her name and number clearly displayed in the Caller ID box, because when the Clipboard Folks aren't trolling the neighborhood, they're calling us instead, which means we can't even answer the phone without taking some chances.

At least my reaction to the donation solicitation is generally guilt above all else. (I suspect being raised Catholic may have something to do with that, of course.) Plenty of people (Protestants, I'm sure***) just opt for clear-cut rage and annoyance instead. My good friend Amy is a generally mild-mannered and easy-going girl, but I have never heard a more angry rant out of her than I did the day TWO Clipboard People dared to ring her bell in the same afternoon. I have never seen her more enraged, and that includes the time she told me the whole story about why her no-good ex-boyfriend was so very no-good.

Maybe I should make a sign like Dooce's to keep the Clipboard Folks away. Or maybe if they'd just bring cookies. Maybe that would make it all OK. Positive reinforcement is everything, you know. A cookie for my cash is really the least they could provide.

* My neighbor the 31-year-old millionaire, by the way.
** Not the millionaire.
*** Kidding, of course. But you knew that, right?

Friday, October 13, 2006

I Never

I'd like to thank -R- for giving me a topic for this week's list. Without her, I may have been forced to tell you all more about my weird-ass dreams or perhaps list five run-of-the-mill obscenities I growled at other drivers on my way to work this morning or five snacks I would really enjoy right now. Instead, I'm doing a round of "I Never," a game that, unlike -R-, I have played before (back in college, when there were actually a hell of a lot more things that I hadn't yet done; I've always been a late bloomer, after all).

Five things I've never done

  1. Been to Asia.

  2. Gone on a date with Michael Vartan. (What? It could happen.)

  3. Tried any illicit drugs. Well, except pot. Does pot count? I mean, wait. Never mind. Just kidding. I have never tried pot. Of course I haven't.

  4. Done anything with a boy (or girl) that has a name I would have had to look up here. Or hell, even here.

  5. Stayed awake for the duration of The Godfather. (Oh, just settle down now. Is that really all that heinous a crime?)

If we were actually playing "I Never," I doubt this list would be long enough to get even the lightest of lightweights any sort of buzz. If anyone actually drank on number 2, however, I will buy you a drink myself. (And then I will want to hear all about it.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Actually, I'm more a lazy bum than a hobo, but it's all semantics, I suppose

Right. So. No one cares what I had for lunch. Want to hear about what I didn't have for lunch? What I didn't have was the can of chicken vegetable soup I brought to work with me. Why? Not because I forgot to bring a can opener (nope; that's what those handy ring-tab pull-tops are for). Not even because I didn't have a spoon. I actually brought a spoon from home because all I keep at my desk is a teaspoon, and I like to ladle my soup out with something more substantial. (What? If you think that's strange, you should visit a restaurant with my dad sometime and watch as he pulls a spoon from home out of his jacket pocket because he apparently finds restaurant spoons inadequate. He prefers those flat-bottomed Chinese spoons that they give you at sushi places along with your miso soup, and he carries one with him presumably at all times for this purpose. I am not making this up. I am, however, on a rambly sort of tangent and am stuck in seemingly perpetual parentheses. Moving on.)

Anyway, the can opener was not the problem; the spoon was not the problem. The problem was I didn't bring a bowl with me in which to heat this soup. What did I think I was going to do with it? Pretend it was gazpacho and drink it cold? Start a fire out back and stick the whole can in, like some modern, urban hobo?

Actually, considering the rednecks next door have a burning barrel in the lot behind my office, and considering I was raised by a man who carries utensils in his clothing, maybe "urban hobo" isn't really such a stretch. Hmm.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Number five

OK, so it was one night later, but let's add it to yesterday's list anyway, all right?

We have a new girl at work, and she's a recent college graduate. This throws the demographics of the company off by a notable percentage, as it means there are now five people besides myself who are still under 40 instead of just four and that I am now one of six women in the office instead of only five. (I wasn't kidding when I said the company wasn't exactly diverse, after all.)

New Girl is single, as far as I know, but in my dream last night, we were all gathered around the conference room table, and she dropped the phrase, "my husband."

"You're married?" I asked. I'd had no idea. I hadn't noticed a diamond or band.

"Of course I am," she replied, a bit annoyed. "What did you think this was?" she scoffed.

I looked down at the clunky piece of jewelry she had plopped onto the table. "Ugly ring?" I thought. (Note, thought, but didn't say. Even in my dreams I can, miraculously, at least sometimes hold my tongue and not let slip exactly everything in my brain.)

The ring was large and boxy, not unlike the sleek onyx man-ring my dad acquired in the 70s or maybe like a boys' high school class ring. It may in fact have been some variation on a class ring, as, on its side were chiseled the words "Chippewa High School." The square center stone was smooth, green, and opaque, and set in the middle of it was a brown M&M. Yes, an M&M.

I suppose this means one of two things. Either I'm feeling noticeably and bothersomely older than today's brides, or I think getting married straight out of high school is ridiculous. I'm leaning towards the latter. Of course, I suppose it could also mean I'm all for incorporating candy into as many things as possible. That's maybe a better analysis, actually, I think. Let's go with that one, OK?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sweet dreams are made of this? Sorry, but I actually DO disagree

I keep saying I'm not going to make this a dream journal, and yet I keep posting things like this. I very much hope this is not a sign that I'm turning into my mother, meaning I will not only force people to listen as I recount exactly what sort of odd things my subconscious cooked up but will soon also hold them captive while I detail all of the ways that Microsoft Word did me wrong at work or all the reasons I did or did not buy some particular item at Goodwill. I already leave long, rambly voicemail messages that might actually count as full conversations with a machine; I'm not too excited to see which of the traits for which I've repeatedly mocked my mother I will surely pick up next.

In any case, last night presented a few more shining examples of the strange vignettes that play on the reel in my head while I sleep. I'm sure you are dying to hear about them, so here we go, OK?

Five things I dreamt last night

  1. I'm in the market for a new cell phone, and, when I'm shopping for anything, I tend to obsess over it in a way that far exceeds the normal level of thought or excitement about the purchase. I did this with my last cordless phone, constantly comparing prices on various Web sites and checking user reviews. I did it again when I decided to buy a digital camera last winter, and yet again with my not-iPod shortly thereafter. Even when I'm just thinking about new shoes, I can't help but run back to Zappos again and again to click one more time through the same pages I've already perused several times over. I've never even actually purchased anything from Zappos. I just seem to think I will, I guess.

    All of this is a long way of explaining how not surprised I am, actually, that I dreamt about acquiring a new phone. Except, in the dream, instead of being all excited about my fine choice of new mobile technology, I was disturbed and disappointed that the sales guy had talked me into something I really didn't want. It was a thick, orange flip-phone that looked more like a child's toy than a cutting edge piece of technology. The orange didn't bother me (I actually think an orange phone would be pretty cool), but it was as brick-like as my first Nokia (circa 2000 or so). And it didn't even have a camera in it. I don't particularly need a camera in my phone; it's not something I've felt at a loss without up to now. But in my dream, I thought I should have one, so I guess I should keep that in mind when I actually do make my way to the store.

  2. I watched The Office last night, and I must have really enjoyed it, because it made appearances in my head twice while I slept. First, during the episode, they suddenly started displaying quotes and factoids on top of the action on the screen. It was a bit like Pop-up Video, but without all the annoying bubbly effects. I hesitate to mention this because I worry it might make me sound like some strange sort of groupie (what with featuring him in two Friday Fives in a row), but one of the quotes was from Darren, and had something to do with a character's "Stockard Channing voice." I don't know that Darren's ever written anything about Stockard Channing, and I can't think of anyone on The Office who would call her to mind in any way, but this is the strange way my brain works when I'm not monitoring it, I guess. Even stranger, Darren's by-line on the quote was actually attributed to Look at Me... rather than Entertainment Weekly or some other widely distributed publication. Darren, I don't know whether you're a legend in your own mind, but it seems that apparently you are in mine.

    Incidentally, in case anyone thinks it's entirely creepy that I would have a dream involving a fellow blogger, I'd like to point out that Red admitted to having a dream about Darren once as well. If I remember correctly, in her dream, he was feeding her Skittles. That may be slightly less absurd than referencing Stockard Channing on The Office, but only slightly, I believe.

  3. Eventually, the Pop-up Video quotes subsided, and the normal Office episode ensued. Or, it was normal for a while, anyway. Then all of the characters started referring to Pam as Dawn and thereafter began speaking in British accents as well. Maybe I have -R- to thank for this little detour on the set? It's possible, I suppose.

  4. Later, I was in my living room (which, for once, actually was my living room, instead of some unrecognizable dream-variation thereof). It was around midnight, and I was just about to leave the room and go to bed, when I saw a shadow approaching on my front steps. I quickly hit the floor and killed the stereo--not for the normal reasons, mind you (i.e., that an intruder was approaching my house in the middle of the night), but because I thought it was a Clipboard Person coming to beg for a donation or talk to me about my vote. Obviously I should have been worried it was an intruder, as two seconds later, a tall man in all black (who looked suspiciously like a loser I dated briefly at age 25) somehow swiftly picked my lock and walked right into the room. He was entirely calm, as if breaking and entering was a fully normal thing to do, but I screamed "Get the fuck out!" and Tae Bo-ed him in the chest, booting him out of my house torso-first. I should be so lucky as to call up that sort of super-strength and quick-thinking if I ever actually find myself in such a scenario. More likely, I'd surely curl into a ball and beg for mercy. Either way, this dream scared the hell out of me, and I hid under my covers as I tried to get myself back to sleep.

  5. Years ago, I saw a comic that pictured a sad, lonely man going to his mailbox, saying, "Please, mailbox, contain a letter from someone I haven't thought about in years but who has been unable to forget me and is madly in love with me, and we'll reunite and live happily ever after..." OK, so I didn't quite get that letter, but I did get an e-mail from one of my earliest meMarmony matches, apologizing for vanishing several months ago and saying he regrets not getting to know me better. If this were a dream, he would have turned out to be smart and witty and interesting and entirely captivated with me in every way, and we would instantly be on the path to surefire successful couplehood. This one actually happened, however, so the odds of things panning out that way are significantly smaller, I think.

    What? You wanted a legitimate fifth dream to round out the list? Sorry; I guess even I don't remember five in one night. Well, OK, then. Here you go.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Memo to the woman teaching the step class tonight...

When dealing with someone as historically uncoordinated and unathletic as I, using the direction "Shoot a basket!" (in place of the typical "Step-tap!") is really not terribly helpful or descriptive. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I give up*

Remember how I said I am apparently the only person on the planet who is not watching Lost? Turns out even Wikipedia wants me to jump right on that bandwagon.

I do wonder about the selection process for the featured article of the day... Is it the job of an actual human, or are they culled strictly at random through some automated procedure? If it's the latter, I can't wait until the day the Wikipedia robot picks one of its more colorful entries to highlight on its home page. NSFW indeed.

* No I don't, actually. I'm sure I still won't be tuning in for the premiere, but the pressure to do so certainly keeps building.

Monday, October 02, 2006

An open letter to my big red bulls-eyed friend

Dear Target,

We need to talk.

As you know, my love for you is deep and strong and, until recently, I thought, permanent. Lately, however, I've had some concerns. Trust me when I say this hurts me than it hurts you. I know you don't mean to wrong me... Even though you're running with the popular kids now, sitting at the cool table with the cheerleaders and the homecoming queen, you've always remained pretty good to me. Maybe you actually appreciate my loyalty; you realize that we go way back--that I still remember when you were a little awkward, a little uncool... frankly, a little cheap. I do love what you've done with yourself and I'm happy to see you come into your own, but frankly, I think you could still use a little work.

First, let's talk about your layout. A couple of years ago, you decided to move a bunch of stuff around, seemingly just for fun or just to make me explore my less traveled of your aisles. I waited patiently as you shuffled things back and forth during the remodel, as you slowly placed everything in its new home. And some of the moves probably made a good deal of sense. I don't have a baby myself, but if I did, I might appreciate having the diapers and formula in the same area as the onesies and rattles. I sort of think most moms would look for diapers in among the paper products and pick up formula and baby food along with their groceries, but I guess I'm not really in a position to judge that sort of thing.

What I am in a position to judge, however, is your personal care aisles. In retail terms, everything from shower gels and lotions to hair care and makeup on over to saline solution and eye drops and lip balm and Tylenol all fall under the same general umbrella, known as "H&B." That's H as in "Health" and B as in "Beauty." All things to keep me clean, presentable, pretty, and pain-free should be housed in the same general vicinity--much as they are in my medicine cabinet and vanity at home. In fact, the layout of the aisles nearly mimics my routine many mornings... I shower and shampoo, I wake up my eyes with some Target-brand Visene, I dab on some moisturizer and slide on some lip balm, put a bit of product in my hair, and apply a bit of makeup and a spritz of fragrance. You know what I don't do in the midst of this routine, however? Mop my floor. Do my laundry. Scrub my dishes. None of these things are part of my prepping or primping process, and yet, you've seen fit to stick the mops and the detergent and the Tilex and Scrubbing Bubbles right in between the Maybelline and Tampax aisles. It's almost as though it was an afterthought of poor planning, and rather than reorganize again when you realized you were a few rows off, you just said, "Eh. This'll work" and washed your hands of the whole mess. A little flip-flopping is in order and would be well worth the time. I'm tired of walking back and forth past the Cascade and Mr. Clean because I expected the Oil of Olay to be near the Jergens and I thought I missed my aisle. Now, it's quite possible I'm being ridiculous and am the only one to complain about this particular issue, but judging by the confused looks and similar back-and-forth maneuvers I see other shoppers carrying on, I kind of don't think that's the case.

All right then. Moving on. Let's talk about your clothing for a bit. It was awfully nice of you to send me a coupon promising $10 off an apparel or accessories purchase of $75 or more. I'd been eyeing all the cute new tops and skirts each time I've wandered past women's the past few weeks, so I was excited to finally dig in and start trying things on. Unfortunately, it seems you’ve hidden all the cute stuff. Why would you do that? You knew I was coming, didn't you? Moreover, the few cute things that were still hanging around were available in exactly two sizes: XS and XXL. Why do you hate the average girls, Target? Why wouldn't you keep extra M's and L's in stock just for us? Frankly, I don't know what I did to upset you. Haven't I given you enough of my hard-earned dollars over the years? Don't I deserve to look cute and stylish for less as well?

And speaking of the lack of cute and stylish in your women's department, let's move on to your buddy Isaac for a minute. I know, I know--he's a fashion superstar and you're feeling lucky to have him on your side. I'm sure he's well-appreciated in his circles and has done some great work over the years. Unfortunately, he's not doing it for you. I mean, have you seen this?

Patchwork wonder

Or this?

Bad butterfly

Are either of these, in fact, looks you've seen any Target shopper sport? That last one is the sort of item I'm used to seeing on the rummage sale-esque racks at Marshall's, not the friendly and practical racks you generally stock. It's the sort of thing that prompts me to think, "Wow. Now what sort of Halloween costume could I create with that?" Your women's clothing department should not call up costume ideas, even in this, the year that's seen the return of bubble skirts and leggings and off-the-shoulder tunics and all things ridiculous and 80s-inspired. You know all those other oh-so-famous designers I've never heard of who you've been bringing in for a single line just a few months at a time? The racks filled with impractical and obnoxious things suitable for no one but stick-thin 13-year-olds? Well, at least those absurdities rotate out of the store after two months. I'm sorry, but until he can put together a collection that doesn't make me say, "What??" then Isaac deserves the same temporary treatment as well.

I do want to wrap this up soon, as no one likes to harp on a good friend like this for so long. But first, I need a word about your shoes. You know those cardboard props that IKEA uses to simulate computers and flat-panel TVs on their desks and media consoles? The rows of fused-together fake books displayed carefully on bookshelves and coffee tables? They've got the form, but lack any function. Is that what you're doing in your shoe department as well? Did you not really want to sell shoes, but you thought you needed shoe aisles, so you stocked the area with props you never meant for us to buy? This is the best explanation I can muster, being as every pair of shoes I've ever tried on (or, more foolishly, chose to buy) have been cute from the outside, but offered no comfort or cushioning at all. The ballet flats I picked up last spring? Cardboard actually may have been more comfy, as the hard seams rubbed and pressed against my feet with no hope or indication of breaking in. And those black boots I snagged last winter? They look great; no question about that. But I'm no Carrie Bradshaw (obviously, or I'd never think to outfit myself in Merona or Mossimo), so I'm not at all convinced they're worth the pain.

I really don't mean to go on and on like this, but I felt it was time someone pointed these things out. It's tough love, Target, but I'm critical because I care. It's really for your own good; I only want you to succeed. I hope you understand.

I'm glad we had this chat.